L I E) RARY
U N IVLR5ITY
BOID k^J) EHEE.
THE AUTHOR OF " CASTE,"
"Nothing is a misery
Unless our weakness apprehend it so.
We cannot be more faithful to ourselves
In anything that's manly, than to make
HI fortune as contemptible to us,
As it makes us to others."
EST THREE VOLIBIES.
HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS,
SUCCESSORS TO HENRY COLBURN,
13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.
The right of TransJation is reserved.
printed by r. born, gloucester street,
BOND AND FREE.
" Is there no life but these alone ?
Madman or slave, must man be one ? "
It was Midsummer, and late afternoon. The
handsome, but faded and dreary-looking,
city dining-room had but two occupants.
They were as silent as the stray sunbeam
that had made its way through a gap
between opposite houses, and was burning
upon the only bits of bright colour in
the apartment — the ruby and amber
YOL. I. B
2 BOND AND FREE.
This sunbeam, touching the word Poetics
at the head of the page, drew the eyes
of the younger man from his book ; they
did not fall again, but absently watched
its play upon the decanters, till the other
occupant of the room, raising the Times
newspaper to refold it, shut off the moted
beam and changed both the direction of
the gaze and the direction of the thoughts
of his companion.
At first the young man's face expressed
mere annoyance at the prolonged rustling
of the paper ; but presently his lips moved
as if in a vain effort to speak, and his
cheek flushed, and then grew paler than
it had been before. It was some minutes
before the silence was disturbed by his
voice ; when he did speak, it was hoarsely
"Sir ! why did you hate my father
and mother ? The time is come when I
BOND AND FREE.
must know their history and my own
Without even lifting his eyes, the per-
son addressed demanded : —
"Who has dared tell you that I hated
them, boy ? '^
'^ Why will you never speak of them ?
Why have I never been able to win
more than toleration from you? Why do
you sometimes look at me as at the
likeness of a person you had hated, and
seem to shrink from the very sound of
my voice ? "
" You are a fanciful young fool ! " was
the short and coldly-spoken rejoinder.
The young man^s slight form quivered
— there was a momentary wild glare in
his eyes, which, when he had exclaimed —
*^ Bj Heaven, such answers shall not
content me ! — you must tell me what I
desire to know ! Why did you hate my
4 BOND AND FREE.
father and mother ? " — and waited for a
reply, with his gaze fixed upon the stern
man opposite — changed to an expression
of shrinking and sufiering timidity.
Mr. Ireton folded up his paper deliber-
ately, and crossed his arms over it upon
the table before he met the boy's eyes ;
his face was even more grim than usual,
and his manner more measured, as he
said : —
^^ Spoken like yourself, Wilfred Mason
— ^ shall ' and ^ must ^ are words often in
the mouths of children and weaklings !
I will try and answer like myself ; per-
haps you understand me well enough to
know that what I say I mean, and that
appeal against my decisions will be un-
availing. To a certain extent you are
right. If you are in the same mad mind
as yesterday, the time is come when you
must learn all that you will ever learn
BOND AND FREE. 5
from me. You have chosen your own
course ; when you leave this house it is
barely possible that we shall meet again
— I do not desire that we may."
" You will tell me all, then — now, to-
" Neither now, to-night, nor ever ! '^
There was a brief silence while Wilfred
struggled for power to speak.
" I will not bear this burden of shame-
ful doubt ! " he burst out passionately.
*^ I cannot, and I will not, bear to live
on in this cruel ignorance ; if you will
not speak, I will try if Death can teach
me what you refuse to let me know.''
"A truce to such contemptible blas-
phemy. I refuse to answer your questions,
but did I say that they should not be
answered ? "
'^You have told me that no one living
but yourself can answer them."
6 BOND AND FREE.
" And I can no more answer them than
if I were dead — a promise is sacred to
"Did they, then, lay this curse of ignor-
ance upon their child? Oh, God! what
had I done that they should hate me
" Listen, boy, instead of raving — do the
dead ever speak ? "
'* No ; or long ago I should have learnt
all. Night after night I have cried to
Heaven for this knowledge. I have seen
visions, spirits, and have dreamt dreams —
but the dead do not speak."
'*' My question did not concern the super-
natural." Mr. Ireton's face and voice ex-
pressed intense disgust and marvelling con-
tempt. " Ever since the time you first
came into this house I have had in my
keeping a letter for you — from your mother"
— (his harsh voice grew more harsh here, per-
BOND AND FREE. 7
haps because he strove to keep it from
softening) *^ I do not know what it tells,
or leaves untold ; all that you will ever
know, however, all she chose that you should
" You have kept it from me all these
years ! You have known the torture ignor-
ance has been to me, and you have let me
suffer this torture for your pleasure."
Putting up his hand, as if to ward off
more such idle words, Mr. Ireton said —
'* On the letter is written, ^ For my son
Wilfred, when he finally leaves his guar-
dian's care,' — earlier you were not to know
of its existence. Difficult and distasteful as
it was to me to undertake the guardian-
ship of your father's child, I did under-
take it — doing so, I have endeavoured rigidly
to fulfil all the conditions of the trust.
Be well assured of the vanity of applying
to me for other or ampler information than
8 BOND AND FREE.
that contained in the letter which I shall
give you, or cause to be given to you, as
you leave this house."
A weight of foreboding fell heavily on the
boy's mind ; he fancied a measured malice in
his guardian's tones.
" For the matter of your name," Mr.
Ireton continued, " it was not well that you
should be branded '' (he watched the boy
wince as he used this term) "by bearing
your father's surname. The name of Wilfred
is rightfully yours — that of ^ Mason ' was
given you by me at hazard ; you may
throw it off, and choose any other name
A pause ensued, during which the demon
and the angel nature of man struggled for
mastery in Wilfred's heart ; presently he
*^ Last night, sir, you expressed a wish,
which I must of course respect, that I
BOND AND FREE. 9
should never try to see you, never even
address you by letter, after I have left your
roof; therefore, I must now, while still in
utter ignorance of the past, say all I ever
say to you. If you had cause for re-
sentment against my parents, if they had
injured you, you have been generous towards
their son. I cannot thank you for any ten-
derness or affection ; but all that it was pos-
sible for one human being to do for another,
the inheritor of a just or unjust dislike,. I
do believe you have done for me, and I
wish to thank you.'*
" Do not trouble yourself to get up any
show of gratitude ; I expect none — I am
honest enough to own that I deserve none.
I opened my doors to you grudgingly, from
a mixture of bad and indifferent motives,
fully resolved never to open my heart. Year
by year your presence has become more
and more oppressive to me: soon the air
10 BOND AND FREE.
you breathed would have seemed to stifle
me — I should have loathed it and you as the
polluter of it."
Wilfred started from his seat, sudden
rage flaming from his eyes. This bitter
vehemence from one he had always seen cold
and calm stung him to the quick.
Before he could speak, his guardian con-
tinued : —
^^ However, it is fruitless to talk thus.
Quiet, boy, quiet ; you cannot leave my house
till to-morrow ; I should have spared you those
last words. To-morrow you will be free —
free to enjoy a fooFs happiness in a mad-
man^s Paradise. In the matter we discussed
yesterday, your future mode of bread-earning,
you thought, spoke, and decided as I expected
you would — showing yourself weak, vain,
ambitious, self-sufficient to infatuation. The
position which I offered to secure for you,
and which you regarded as one of degrad-
BOND AND FREE. II
ing slavery, would be a peculiarly suitable and
safe position for you. Freedom is not good or
possible for the multitude, only for the strong
few : if you are not a slave, as you call it,
to some external work, you will be a slave to
your morbid imagination."
^^ Had your offer been quite in accord-
ance with my views, I must have declined
any further aid from you, sir. I mean to
starve or thrive in my own way. I am
quite alone — no one will suffer by me, or
through me. I think I could give no greater
proof of madness than to bind myself to
years of mechanical drudgery — what could I
gain that would compensate for my loss ? ''
** Spare me any elucidation of your pecu-
liar theories ; reserve that for your young and
" You know well that I have no friends
— passing by a name not my own, and
weighed upon by the consciousness that
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some mystery hangs over me, I have always
felt that I had no right to make friends."
*^ The morbid view of a weak mind,
determined to make the worst of its posi-
tion and to indulge in the luxury of self-
compassion; but if you have no friends, who
is it takes you to his home to-morrow ? "
'^ Herbert Southern is not a friend of
my seeking — he would not be shaken off;
but the acquaintance will end when my
short visit to Beech Holmes is over."
" Herbert Southern may find some day
that he made a strange choice when he
selected you as a friend; but now step
with me into the next room — there is a
little business to be got through before we
Wilfred obeyed. He was obliged to give
his attention to minutely-detailed accounts
of the expenditure of the money which had
been entrusted to his guardian.
BOND AND FREE. 13
^^That almost the whole sum has been
lavished upon your education — an education
disproportionate to your prospects — is not
my fault. In this I acted in accordance
with the instructions I received from your
mother. What views were entertained for
you I can only conjecture ; no doubt they
were firmly based on a firm belief in your
irresistability and my generosity."
" You are clever in torturing me — my
ignorance makes me powerless to defend
my mother's memory ! " Wilfred exclaimed,
" To avoid torturing one so morbidly
susceptible would be the harder task, boy.
If your mother hoped that you would win
my heart and become my heir, was that
a crime in her ? Inhuman as you think
me, I am not one who would strive to
blacken a son's memory of his mother."
At this moment, as a few times before
in the course of those many years, the
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boy^s heart seemed drawn towards his
guardian. Mr. Ireton occasionally betrayed
a grim nobility of nature, that had pe-
culiar fascination for such a temperament
as Wilfred's ; if the stern man had ever,
even if only once in the course of years,
softened to momentary tenderness towards
the boy, subsequent coldness, even ferocity,
would never have completely alienated the
young heart, greedy of affection : but now
the time was long past when Wilfred
could humble himself at his guardian's
feet, wistfully watching for, or passionately
craving, some sign of kindly feeling. The
old longing was swiftly followed by re-
sentful recollection of old suffering — of
nights spent in weeping, of dawns cheer-
less and hopeless, of evenings whose gather-
ing glooms were full of unconfessed terrors
— of childhood and youth as joyless and
loveless as can well be imagined. Re-
BOND AND FREE. 15
calling those things, he had so completely
withdrawn into the past that he started
when Mr. Ireton, who had been collect-
ing and folding scattered papers, said: —
^' I require a wtitten acknowledgment
from you of the receipt of this small
residue of 50/., and here, on this paper,
I wish you to make a few statements.
Have I ever lifted my hand against you?
Have I let you want for anything it was
in my power to give you ? — (in my
power remember — it was not in my
power to give you affection). Do I let
you leave my house without having offered
to put you in the way of earning a
maintenance ? Write brief answers to these
Wilfred looked wonderingly into his guar-
dian's face and then wrote, while Mr. Ireton
*^I may, or may not, have occasion to
16 BOND AND FREE.
make use of this paper ; but I wish to
" Good," he said, presently, glancing at
what Wilfred had written. " Concisely
and well put; you do not want talent;
all your instructors have spoken of natural
gifts and of mental power that ought to
achieve some kind of greatness. I dare-
say you have admirers, who call you
original — a genius. Nevertheless, Wilfred,
you are eminently characterless, without
strength of will, the pith and marrow of
manliness ; your peculiarities are born of
your weakness, not of your strength; you
are variable, exacting, passionate — in a
word, womanish. You overvalue intellect,
and the advantages of mental culture. At
the same time that you indulge a craving
for love and impossible happiness, you ex-
aggerate all the disadvantages of your lot,
and magnify its minute ills."
BOND AND FREE. 1 7
Wilfred wondered at this slowly-doled
out judgment, while he winced under its
severity; he was, perhaps, conscious of its
partial truth, though he struggled against
this consciousness. He rose.
"If I ofiPer you my hand, shall you
take it ? " he asked his guardian, and his
manner was not without a timid dignity.
"I do not wish to carry away the sting
of your refusal to touch me. I am your
debtor for more than fifteen years of
careful guardianship ; the debt is a heavy
one to owe to a man who almost loathes
me. If you are a Christian man, give me
your hand, and with it your forgiveness
of all my wilful offences. Will you take
my hand ? "
The boy's voice trembled, and his eyes
shone with a womanish softness. Averting
his face, after his glance had just touched
Wilfred's, Mr. Ireton extended his hand ;
VOL. I. c
18 BOND AND FREE.
it remained stiff and cold in the clasp
of those slight fingers, " I wish you no
ill/^ he muttered.
Wilfred left the room, and the house;
he needed more and purer air than was
to be had in that dingy, dusty dwelling.
Mr. Ireton drew a long breath, and
threw up the window.
" They all praise him," he muttered,
"but what do they say of him? Not one
of them speaks of stern will, of undaunted
resolution, or of inflexible principle — not even
of the promise of these things — how should
the child of his parents have these? Yet
without them, what are his other qualities
worth ? How handsome the young fellow
is ! If he had been my own son, and I had
loved him — " here the speaker looked
round the room drearily ; he listened, too,
and was struck by the dead silence within
the house, which seemed the deeper and
BOND AND FREE. 19
more dead by contrast with the stir and
life without ; as he looked and listened,
his thoughts were busy with the possi-
bilities of the past — with things that might
By and by Mr. Ireton took two letters,
one open, and one sealed, from his desk.
The first he read through, saying, when
he had finished it : —
'^ Yes, I have done all she asked, and all
I promised ; with what she hoped, I have
nothing to do — she was, of course, un-
Taking the other letter in his hand,
he gazed at it intently.
^^ I would give much to know what
this contains — how she speaks of herself,
of me, of him, to her son. Truly women
are wonderful — supreme in faith where
they trust, as in treachery where they are
trusted. She did not make one attempt
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at self-justification, and she confided to
me what she loved beyond life. Experience
taught her nothing, and she based brilliant
hopes for that boy on qualities which, if
they were ever mine, she had crushed out
The latest twilight found Mr. Ireton
still sitting at his desk, still holding that
faded letter in his hand.
" Then black despair,
The shadow of a starless night, was thrown
Over the world in which I moved alone."
Wilfred threaded the stifling streets
rapidly, anxious to leave his guardian^s house
and the city far behind. The vivid after-
glow of a July sunset flamed across the sky ;
but even when, as he passed an opening
towards the west, the burning glory smote
against him, he paid no heed to it. Making
his way right on, following the course of the
dark, slow-gliding river, past wharves and
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warehouses, where vessels and bales of mer-
chandise bore his guardian's name — past
ugly suburbs, wanting alike in the life
and bustle of the city, and the quiet and
freshness of the country — he reached, at
last, a waste and solitary district — a dis-
trict of marshy meadow, disfigured by
heaps of mineral refuse, some ruined chim-
neys and hovels, and a disused and par-
tially destroyed tramroad.
Wilfred paused upon a bridge ; the city
was behind him, the foul and sullen stream
crept on towards it beneath his feet. As
twilight fell, softly veiling the desolation of
the scene, the country wind blew on him
freshly, direct from distant meadows where
the hay was down, and where that same
stream was no doubt clear and fair — fringed
with willow-herb, and meadow-sweet, and
many another flower.
The only sounds that reached him were
BOND AND FREE. 23
the continuous hum of the city, the fre-
quent splash of a water-rat, the occasional
cry of a water-fowl. Leaning his folded
arms on the iron rail, he lingered long on
the bridge. Fevered sense of impotence,
resentment of the oppressions of fate,
vague and yet deadly dread of the know-
ledge to come, triumph in freedom, gloomy
forebodings of the dreariness of life — these
varied feelings resolved themselves into one
overpowering consciousness of weakness, isola-
tion, misery. With strange fascination the
boy watched the snaky coilings of the oily
stream ; meanwhile, in fancy he saw him-
self plunging into it, sinking, being closed
over by its cold blackness. Little search
would be made for him, he thought; he
would soon fade from the memory of
the few who knew him, soon be utterly
blotted out of the sum of human life. He
repeated lingeringly such broken phrases
24 BOND AND FREE.
and sentences as " absolute rest," *^ to be
as if I had never been," " to cast off this
burden of being,'' '^ as the waters fail from
the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth
up, so to lie down and rise not," till a
longing grew within him — a longing that he
presently recognized with icy horror, and a
strong recoil towards love of life.
*' Surely I shall know happiness ere I
die ? God ! grant me happiness ere I
die ! " he cried, passionately ; *' I will not
crave much — not wealth, or any kind of
glory — only happiness and love ! "
A light in the sky, a soft veiled splen-
dour, attracted Wilfred's eyes ; the moon
lifted herself up from the plain, sending a
line of tremulous light to his feet along
the black water.
The studious, city-bred boy had no fami-
liarity with such sights ; he felt as if an
answer of peace and promise had been sent
BOND AND FREE. 25
to his soul — a gentle awe, a tender and
religious hopefulness, stole over him.
" The holy time is quiet as a nun
Breathless with adoration."
" The coy moon, in the soft wavyness
Of whitest clouds, doth now her beauty dress ;
And staidly paces, higher up and higher,
Like a sweet nun in holy day attire."
He murmured these and many passages
from his favourite poets ; then he cried —
"Nature, sweet mother Nature, take me,
too, to thy breast — teach me the hidden
secrets of thy being, and show me the mys-
teries of beauty. Let me be among the
humblest of thy priests, to interpret thee to
the love and wonder of the world ! "
The boy was ardent and sincere ; his
heart beat loud and fast, and his eyes had
filled, partly from the intensity of vague
longing, partly from the intensity of his out-
26 BOND AND FREE.
The white moonlight on the water was
rippled with blackness as the night wind
rose ; when, presently, a cloud altogether
obscured the moon, Wilfred left the bridge
and turned his face homewards, shuddering
with a sudden sense of something not un-
That cloud soon passed, however ; and as
he went towards the city, the climbing
moon hunted him with shadows which some-
times startled and made him stumble as
if real obstacles lay in his path.
"Is it so in my inner life ? " he asked
himself; *^ do I let mere shadows assume
form and substance, and then recoil from
them as from real evils ? "
It was midnight when Wilfred reached
his guardian's house, and climbed noiselessly
to his room — a large, low garret ; his own
choice — he might have had any other apart-
ment in the house, but this had two advan-
BOND AND FREE. 27
tages — it was a long way from that occu-
pied by his guardian, and from one of its
small casements he could obtain a glimpse
of the river, winding towards the city,
through marshy meadows, from among the
It was his custom to study half the
night, and his lamp stood as usual ready
beside his books ; he did not light it, how-
ever, but threw himself upon his bed, to
watch the clouds scudding rapidly across
the moon, and to think of the change of
To the dreamy gazer the moon appeared
as a fair face, now veiled by ebony, now
by shadowy, tresses, and now fully revealed.
As he grew more dreamy yet, the fair
face became his mother's, the clouds were
aspersions of her perfect truth and good-
ness, the wind was the breath of knowledge
which should disperse these clouds, and let
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her fame shine forth pure and bright, as the
moon's face when the heaven is unclouded.
The dreamy eyes grew heavy — they
closed at the cool kiss of a moonbeam, and
forgot to open.
Some time after Wilfred had fallen asleep
a cautious step ascended the stairs, and a
stealthy hand pushed his room door open.
Mr. Ireton entered, walked up to the bed, and
paused beside it. Wilfred's sleeping face
was womanishly beautiful ; yet even now,
when rest relaxed its lines, it would have
looked old and worn as a woman's face.
Perhaps Mr. Ireton was reminded of some
beautiful woman whom he had last seen
when her face was worn and haggard. His
gaze was a long one. He did not move
till Wilfred raised his arms wildly, as if
to push something from him, as if even in
his sleep he were troubled by that gaze.
In his retreat, Mr. Ireton came face to
BOND AND FREE. 29
face with a something that caused him to
start. The moonlight had reached the side
of the room nearest the door; it shone
upon something erect and white in a dark-
lined recess; a woman's bust placed on a
pedestal, of the height of a moderately tall
woman — the pedestal concealed by drapery,
falling from the shoulders to the ground.
" Fantastic boy ! " Mr. Ireton muttered.
" There is some resemblance — he remem-
bers her, it seems. The brow is hers, — low,
broad, and, any stranger would have said,
candid ; the mouth is hers, sweet and firm
as I used to think hers, and the head is
set upon the shoulders with the same meek
Mr. Ireton returned to his study — day-
light surprised him there. He left the
house early, to avoid risking another meet-
ing with his ward.
Soon after dawn Wilfred was stirring;
30 BOND AND FREE.
two sides of his room were covered with
books from the floor to the low ceiling —
old books most of them, out of which
their former owner's name had been cut;
all these he had to pack. Besides his
books, he had a few pictures and engrav-
ings, and the precious bust ; when he
displaced this, he took it tenderly into
his arms, set it on the window-seat, and
knelt before it. Truly he was, what his
guardian called him, a fantastic boy — for
he laid his cheek against the white face,
pressed his lips upon the cold mouth,
lavished fond words and farewell caresses
upon the inanimate clay. The set sweetness
of the mouth, the unruffled calmness of
the brow, appeared to pain him.
"Is it to be thus with me through
life?" he cried. "Will my heart beat
itself out against a cold, unyielding fate?
Shall I lavish my all of love and life,
and receive nothinfij in return ? "
BOND AND FREE. 31
Still kneeling before the lovely face, he
thought of Pygmalion and his marble —
thought and gazed so intently that he
seemed to see the rose-hue of life creep
over the cheeks, the golden tints and
gleamy light of life coil among the wavy
tresses, the lips grow warm and moist,
the eyelids quiver, and the bosom heaved
by soft-sighing breath.
A tap at his door startled Wilfred to
his feet — startled colour into a face that
had been almost as white as that on
which it gazed.
A woman, past middle age, and with a
face expressive of anything but sweetness
of temper, came into the room.
" Your breakfast is waiting in the
dining-room, Mr. Wilfred ; while you're
having it, I will pack your linen, sir."
Wilfred hastened to leave the field free
for the housekeeper's operations. Having
32 BOND AND FREE.
taken a cup of coffee, and found that
he could eat nothing, he went out, and
wandered through the streets, ^leditating
what parting present he should buy for
her. Fifty pounds was the sum he pos-
sessed with which to begin life ; he spent
five on a brooch for his grim friend, his
On his return to the house, he paused
outside the door of his room, hearing
strange sounds within ; on entering, he
found Mrs. Smith kneeling before a nearly
full box, her face almost hidden in her
apron, sobbing violently.
AVilfred approached her, put his hand
on her shoulder, stooped, and kissed her
cheek, blushing as he did so.
^^Oh, don't, Mr. Wilfred, sir! I don't
deserve it ! " she gasped out between her
sobs. ** I never thought it would come
to this — I never thought master would
cast you off like this ! "
BOND AND FREE. 33
" He does not cast me off, Mrs. Smith.
I make my own choice — I wish to be
free. Indeed, Mrs. Smith, you must not
cry so ; I little knew I had so warm a
friend in this house — if I had known this
sooner, I should often have felt less deso-
late in it."
^^Tve not been your friend, Mr. Wilfred
— it's partly that as hurts me now."
^^ I am sure you have no reason to
reproach yourself I only meant that
though you have been kind — "
"Bless your poor heart, that doesn't
know what kindness is. It's no use talking
now, however — " and she dried her eyes;
"be pleased to accept these, sir; I've had
pleasure in getting them ready — may you
live to wear them out, and many more
after them ! " As she spoke, she pointed
to a pile of new shirts and a multitude
of collars lying by her.
VOL. I. D
34 BOND AND FREE.
Wilfred thanked her, and begged her to re-
member him, sometimes, when she fastened on
the brooch he offered her. Saying that it was
not fit for her, but for some pretty young lady,
and that she did not deserve it, Mrs. Smith
took it, and, as she passed her hand over it ad-
miringly, added —
** The air of this house isn't good air to
breathe so many years, sir ; it makes the
heart shrivel up. I set myself against you be-
fore ever you set foot over the threshold,
saying you'd bring ill luck and trouble to
master ; and I've never done what I ought by
you. I shall lie awake thinking of you many
a night, sir, and wishing to have the past
over again — that'll be my judgment."
Wilfred's kind and re-assuring words were
only received with sighs and shakings of the
head ; so, leaving Mrs. Smith to complete her
arrangements, he went over the whole of the
dreary house, for the last time — lingering
BOND AND FREE. 35
here and there, and feeling something like
regret at his heart.
Eemembering presently that he had not
commended the bust to Mrs. Smith's especial
care, he ran hastily upstairs to do so. As he
opened the door he saw it lying upon the
floor, broken in many pieces. A sudden gust of
wind had swung the casement to, and jarred
it from its place. This accident struck Wil-
fred as an evil omen ; he allowed it to throw
an unreasonable gloom over his spirit.
It was not till he was quite ready to leave
that the packet, his mother's letter, was given
into Wilfred's hand by Mrs. Smith. Pressing it
close against his heart, he passed out of the
mouldy house into the midsummer glare and
heat. Crossing to the opposite side of the
bustling street, he looked up at the ranges
of black windows, and muttered —
" So, at last, I leave you for ever — and
leave my joyless youth within your walls ! "
36 BOND AND FREE.
His one desire then was to find some quiet
place in which he could open and read his mo-
ther's letter. How many homeless ones of
our great cities must, in some crisis of their
fate, have been driven to desperation, being
hunted from place to place by countless eyes
and ceaseless noise. Had he not noticed, as he
passed the mouth of a low-arched passage
leading to old St. Jonah's, that the church
door stood partly open, Wilfred might have
sought long and vainly for some place of re-
fuge. He entered the church thankfully : it
was dim, cool, solitary, and he had an hour be-
fore him ere he need meet his friend, Herbert
Southern, at the station.
Seeking out the most obscure nook of the
mouldering cloisters, he seated himself on the
fragments of a ruined arch, and drew the letter
out into the daylight.
Believing that, at last, he held the long de-
sired knowledge in his hand, he trembled : per-
BOND AND FREE. 37
haps ignorance was safer and happier than
this knowledge. He studied the fine, free
hand-writing on the outer cover, and the seal,
on which was the one word "Hester." He
pressed his lips on this name — his mother's
name; repeated the name to himself — repeated
what he firmly believed, that she, at least, was
pure, true, and loving ; and then, taking great
heed not to break the seal, he opened that
outer cover. A smaller sealed packet fell at his
feet — its face was closely written over with
these words —
" My son, your mother's hope is that this
packet will never come into your hands during
your guardian's life — that you will never
leave your guardian's care, except to return to
it again — that you will be as a son to him.
If it should not be so, I implore you, I
command you — it is a mother loving you
above life who speaks — not to break this seal
till John Masters Ireton is dead. Whatever
38 BOND AND FREE.
you believe of your mother — always believe
that she loved you above herself— that it is not
her own fame, but your peace and safety, she
is studying now.'*
Wilfred read these words many times before
he mastered their sense. He felt sick and
stunned ; even when he had read them many
times, he continued to gaze at the closely-
written lines blankly and stupidly. Motion
near him, caused by the perching of a sparrow
on a tall weed, drew off his gaze, and then it
dwelt with the same absorbed vacancy on the
A kind of rage woke within him when he
roused from this stupor. Pacing up and down
the cloister he muttered a hundred times —
" Cruel caution ! cruel caution ! To be doomed
to bear the burden on for years, perhaps for
my whole life ! Oh mother ! yours was cruel
The idea of hunting out his late guardian
BOND AND FREE. 39
and of trying to force the secret from him,
crossed his mind only to be immediately aban-
doned — he knew any such attempt would be
utterly futile. Lost in wild fancies and som-
bre imaginings, Wilfred forgot the flight of
time ; things past, present, and to come jostled
each other in his disordered mind. By-and-
by a benignant light dawned over this chaos —
^^ She loved me — it is sweet to know surely
how she loved me! '' As he murmured this, tears
came to his eyes, and soft consolation entered
into his heart; but the light was transient,
soon overclouded. Shuddering horror shut
out consolation, as he thought — "The
knowledge from which she tried so ear-
nestly to shield me must be dreadful
indeed ! "
Three hours had past since Wilfred had en-
tered the church, when the clanging to of a
heavy door startled him to a sense of pre-
sent engagements and responsibilities; but
40 BOND AND FREE.
just in time — one door into the church was
already locked — in another minute, escape
from the cloisters would have been impos-
sible for that day.
Launched upon the noise and bustle of
the street, Wilfred was jostled to and fro,
and carried here and there, by eager passers-
by ; till, presently, an arm was linked in
his, a voice in his ear cried,
" Found at last ! Wake, dreamer ! Come,
double-quick, for heaven's sake ! or we shall
lose the last train that makes it possible to
get home to-night."
*^ I am very sorry — I had forgotten,"
Wilfred began as he was hurried on.
" Forgotten ! I have put the housekeeper
at Ireton's in a pretty state by going there
to ask for you. You must write to her to-
morrow, for she looked as if she thought
you might have drowned yourself"
** Did she ? — ah ! " And in spite of the hur-
BOND AND FREE. 41
ried pace at which he was led on, in spite of
his companion's gay talk, Wilfred's imagina-
tion returned to the dread speculations of
the last few hours.
"Wie einst mit flehenden Verlangen
Pygmalion den Stein umschloss.
So schlang ich micli mit Liebes armen
Um die Natur, mit Jugendlust,
Bis sie zu athmen, zu erwarmen
Begann an meiner Dichter-brust." »
" Here we are ! Throw your bag down
to Eoger. All well, Roger? — that's right."
Herbert Southern had jumped from the
coach — had helped his friend down — their
luggage had been taken off and piled on
Roger's barrow — the coach had pursued its
way and disappeared, before Wilfred com-
BOND AND FREE. 43
prehended that they had reached Beech
Holmes, their destination.
There was no house in sight — only a pic-
turesquely ruinous, ivy-clad lodge, stand-
ing close to entrance -gates, whose pillars
were correspondingly ruinous and ivy-clad,
which opened upon an avenue of gigantic
beeches — the beeches being very ancient,
having many unlopped dead limbs and half-
severed wind-cracked branches, had something
of the picturesquely ruinous look of the
cottage and the pillars.
It was evident that no one was expected
to appear from this lodge, for young Southern
held the gates open while Eoger wheeled
the barrow through them ; that accomplished,
he turned to Wilfred.
"You have been quite lost the whole
journey through, old fellow! — pray find your-
self now, for they are all coming down the
avenue to meet us.''
44 BOND AND FREE.
Even now no house, not even the chim-
ney of one, was to be seen ; yet down the
avenue, through the glancing evening sun-
beams and the fantastic shadows, came a
large family party.
A tall, black-robed lady, wearing a widow's
mourning — young ladies in muslin dresses,
with floating curls and waving ribbons — a
youthful matron, her little children, her
husband and husband's brother.
" The whole Southern force ! " Herbert
remarked — secretly wishing, as he remem-
bered his friend's lonely estate, that he had
given his mother some hint that would have
secured a less demonstrative welcome.
" That we have been travelling through
enchanted ground I know, by token of the
instantaneous disappearance of the coach
when we had done with it. It is plain that
this, too, is fairy-land, and that this is a
fairy-band approaching ; there is no habita-
BOND AND FREE. 45
tion in sight, but, of course, the trunks of
these magnificent trees open to receive
their fairy ships at will. Walk slower,"
Wilfred pleaded, ^^give me breathing-time,
before you present me."
" Ah, Felicia ! always the first to meet
your old brother! — you know who is his
A child had separated from the group
and come forward — a child with a small,
exquisitely fair, pale face, framed heavily
by masses of golden-threaded brown hair
hanging on her shoulders. She submitted si-
lently to her brother^s hearty embrace;
when he released her, she folded her tiny
hands over one of his, and pressed her
cheek against his coat-sleeve with a quiet
fervour hardly childlike, looking up at him
with eyes radiant with gladness, yet serene
The child loosened her clasp of her bro-
46 BOND AND FREE.
ther's hand after a few moments — relin-
quishing him to his mother, in whose arms
he was clasped close with a fervent "welcome
home, my son." Then his sisters, his brother-
in-law, and his tiny nephews and nieces, all
claimed their share of his notice.
Wilfred stood just a little apart — for a
few moments quite forgotten ; he started
when a soft warm hand stole into his;
looking down he met a clear, and, it seemed
to him, compassionate gaze from the child
Felicia's eyes. She smiled at him a timid
smile, that went straight to his heart. As
yet he had not heard her speak.
Young Southern, released from his sisters'
embraces, tossed back his bright disordered
locks, and looked round for his friend ; he
smiled significantly, seeing that Felicia had
taken him under her protection.
It was now Wilfred's turn to receive a
hearty and kindly welcome; but, as they
BOND AND FREE. 47
all ascended the avenue, he retained the
little hand that had, unsolicited, crept into
his. That avenue, illuminated by the low
sunbeams, the trunks of the ancient trees
turned to ruddy gold in the level light,
struck Wilfred as marvellously beautiful.
Mrs. Southern talked to her young guest
of the loveliness of the country he had
passed through — of the heat of the wea-
ther, and the length of the journey ; while,
as Wilfred noted, her glistening eyes, dwelt
fondly on her tall son, who, walking before
them surrounded by his sisters, often tossed
back a glad look upon his mother.
The avenue, which was about half a mile
in length, came to an end at the foot of
a broad flight of steps, where a carriage-
road branched off from it and curved round
to the side of the house. A cedar of Le-
banon, growing at the top of these steps,
sweeping the balustrade with its branches.
48 BOND AND FREE.
did not yet allow the house to be seen.
It was not tiU the steps had been as-
cended, and the wide-spreading cedar passed
under, that it was visible. Surrounded by
a broad stone terrace, which had to be
gained by another flight of steps, the house
looked rather insignificant, compared with
the splendid avenue by which it was ap-
proached; but its appearance was at once
picturesque and exquisitely homelike — the
evening light brought out to the full the
rich colours of the lichens and mosses which
grew about its heavy porch and muUioned
The whole party lingered a little while
before entering the house. The terrace-
pavement was imperfect and moss-grown;
its broad-topped balustrade was chipped and
broken, as were the ancient vases with
which it was set; but the balustrade was
luxuriantly overhung by blossoming creep-
BOND AND FREE. 4^9
ers, and the vases were well filled with
Perhaps Beech Holmes was the more
beautiful — beautiful with rich-tinted, yet
pathetic autumnal beauty — for the air of
decay that breathed from its loveliness.
Wilfred felt a poetry of contrast, as he gazed
on the forms of human and youthful strength
and beauty, and on the crumbling, weed-
grown masonry that must have echoed to
the feet and voices, and been touched and
leant on by the hands and forms of many
generations, long since passed away ; he did
not consciously moralize, but felt as if
wrapped round by a dream-atmosphere steal-
ing out from between the pages of some fair
and ancient romance.
The terrace overlooked a wide extent
of wood, vale, and water ; beyond the water,
line after line of mountainous hill rose up
VOL. I. E
50 BOND AND FREE.
and fell away, melting, to-night, into a daz-
zling, golden distance.
*' You like it very much, don't you ? ''
Felicia asked Wilfred, speaking for the first
time since she had met Herbert. Her tone
was low and confidential : Wilfred had to
bend down to catch her words ; he used a
similar tone, answering : —
" I have never seen anything so per-
fectly beautiful — it is to me what your
very brightest fairy-tales must be to you."
" But I do not like fairy-tales very
much, because I cannot believe them."
Mrs. Southern's high, clear voice now
made itself heard, summoning the young
people to the tea-table. Turning to Wilfred
she said : —
^* I hope our noisy party will not quite
bewilder you, Mr. Mason ; you must be used
to much more quiet than I can maintain
amongst my riotous children."
BOND AND FREE. 51
*' The life to which I have been used
must, indeed, be different from your life
here — as different as winter from summer,
as the dullest prose from the fairest poetry."
" I only hope that the jingle of our
poetry may not make you recoil towards
the quiet of your prose," Mrs. Southern said,
smiling indulgently at the young man's
warmth of expression.
*^ Welcome to our home ! " Herbert whis-
pered in Mason's ear, putting his hand on
his shoulder, as they passed through the
low porch and entered a lofty, oak-raftered
The whole party was soon seated at table,
in a long room which ran the length of
one wing of the house; one side and one
end of this room retained the old-fashioned
casements, set deep in the thick wall and
admitting but little light — while, at the other
end, modern plate-glass windows opened on
UNIVERSITY OF ILUMQia
52 BOND AND FREE.
to the terrace, at the back of the house.
From the terrace, on this side, as on the
other, the ground sloped away ; but here it
fell more gradually — steps cut in the turf
broke the descent at the steepest parts.
This slope was sparingly dotted over with
gaunt, much belichened fruit-trees, for the
most part past bearing, the survivors of a
once thickly-planted and productive orchard.
Below the orchard ran a broad, shallow
stream of sparkling brown water, across
which was thrown a light bridge ; from the
stream the ground rose again, ascending,
in broken lines, well-wooded to a consider-
able height, towards a mountain peak that
showed gray and hoary in the distance.
The tea-table, with its brilliant silver, deli-
cate china, piles of fruit, fragrant flowers,
and ample provision of cool and pleasant
dainties, all prettily addrned, gratified the
hitherto not merely unsatisfied, but almost
BOND AND FREE. 53
undeveloped requirements of Wilfred's taste.
His appointed place was between Felicia, who
always sat next her mother, and Margaret
Landon, the eldest and married daughter —
the beautiful daughter par excellence. Some
mirth was excited by the younger Mr. Lan-
don^s assertion of the positive necessity of his
sitting beside Blanche, to assist her in pour-
ing out the coffee, and by the doubtful
results of this assistance. The tale told
by Blanche's gentle confusion, and her happy
blushes, made her pretty face almost as in-
teresting to Wilfred's observant eyes as it
was to John Landon's.
Wilfred found so much to observe in the
faces, and to listen to in the conversation,
round him, that he was disinclined to talk.
His beautiful neighbour, interested in her
brother's friend, gave herself some trouble
in trying to draw him out. A student
herself, she loved to talk of books, and by-
54 BOND AND FREE.
and-by both she and Wilfred were deaf to
the light skirmish of merry talk kept up
round the table, and deep in the beauties of
an author who was a favourite with both.
Herbert greatly admired his eldest sister,
and had been anxious that she should like
his friend ; he was delighted now to see
their interest in each other — to see Wilfred's
pale face light up, his eyes gleam as he
listened, and kindle as he spoke. It is true,
they talked only of books ; but it is difficult
to speak about the heart of beautiful books
without showing something of the inmost
feelings of one's own heart. Wilfred, who
had never before talked with a young and
beautiful-natured woman, felt some things
Mrs. Landon said to be as revelations from an
undreamed-of world — while others put into fit
words thoughts and fancies of his own which
he had deemed too sacred for expression, but
which seemed to gather vivid life-lil^eness,
BOND AND FREE. 55
without losing anything of sacredness, when
they were uttered by her lips and, still more
touchingly, by her eyes.
Speaking of Wilfred to her husband, long
after this evening, Margaret said : —
" Talking with Mr. Mason is like talking
with a woman — I don't exactly know why;
only, while he has far more intellectual
power than any woman I know, he has a
chivalrous patience with one's imperfect know-
ledge and imperfect speech which few women
When the merry meal was over, and every-
body had risen from the table, Wilfred said to
Herbert : —
'* Let me be alone a little while ; every-
body wants you, and I am quite bewildered.
You cannot imagine how strange to me all
here seems — it is like a fragment from some
other state of being."
" Be one of us as soon as possible — that
5Q BOND AND FREE.
is all we require of you/' Herbert answered.
John and Blanche, lingering on the terrace
in the dusk, saw Wilfred descend the slope,
cross the stream, and vanish among the
trees ; but before he had left the close
neighbourhood of the house he had seen a
picture the beauty of which long haunted
him. In a small room, lighted by one shaded
lamp, the elder Mr. Landon was enjoying a
good-night gambol with his children ; stretched
on the floor at his wife's feet, he submitted
to various rough treatment from the two
elder — a sturdy boy and girl — while the
youngest, already in its tiny white night-
dress, stood on its mother's lap, supported by
her arm, leaning its head against her cheek,
and surveying the proceedings with a calm,
superior, pensive air. The light of the lamp
fell full on Margaret ; she watched the group at
her feet with that peculiar smile, more of the
eyes than of the lips, which some of the old
BOND AND FREE. 57
masters have given to their Madonnas — a
smile the contemplation of which induces
sadness, seeming, in its too utter sweetness,
its perfect happiness, to contain a threat of
bitterness and tears to come.
Though Wilfred turned quickly from con-
templation of this scene, feeling as if such
happiness were awful in its holiness, the
memory of it often recurred to him in after
years, when a face, not Margaret's, would
wear the expression of Margaret's, and shine
in the stead of Margaret's.
To-night he sped on, up the opposite hill,
till he had cleared the wood ; then he threw
himself upon the ground, pressing his face
down into the mossy turf — feeling that he
threw himself lovingly upon the bosom of this
lovely nature, embracing her with ardour.
When he lifted up his face, by-and-by, there
was moisture on it, either of dew or of tears.
He lay and watched the smoke from the
58 BOND AND FREE.
house-chimneys curling up against the clear,
delicious glow of the sky — watched the
lights kindling in one window after another
— watched the late birds wheeling home —
and watched for the rising of his last
night's friend, the moon. Last night !
Was it only last night he had stood upon
the dreary bridge above the foul water?
How long ago it seemed !
A strange mingling of rapture and agony
rose and fell in Wilfred's breast: one mo-
ment it seemed to him that he had obtained
a glimpse into the very heart of life's pos-
sible beauty and sweetness — only to be re-
minded, by the sealed packet in his bosom,
that such beauty and sweetness were not
among the possibilities of his life; the next
his nature rebelled against this sentence of
exclusion — a wild sense of undefined and
unbounded power asserted itself — he sprang
up, crying that his intense craving fpr
BOND AND FREE. 59
love and happiness, his hunger after them,
should be to him a foreboding of the satis-
faction of this hunger and craving.
He was proceeding to climb higher up
the hill, when Southern's voice recalled
^' Do you mean to spend the night out
here? They have been asking for you.
Felicia didn't want to go to bed without
having said 'good night' to you."
The young men went towards the house
"Margaret is going to sing — I want you
to hear her," Herbert remarked, as they
'* Don't smother me with roses, or crush
me with a shower of gold — I could not
bear to hear your sister sing to-night.
Pray make my excuses, and let me go to
my room. I daresay you think me absurd;
you don't know all I have endured to-
60 BOND AND FREE.
day, and you cannot guess all I shall have
to endure for many a day."
*^ I want you to do what you like best ;
only I shall see you safe to your room.
You are put into an out-of the-way nook,
for the sake of ensuring you the possibility
After leading the way up several short
flights of stairs, and along many passages.
Southern pushed open a low-arched door
of heavy oak. As he lighted the candles
that stood ready on the table, he con-
tinued : —
" I hope I may trust you not to sit up
— you look thoroughly tired out. Sleep
well, and wake up one of us — your iron
guardian and his gloomy house quite for-
gotten. I am afraid that your parting from
the man of iron was none of the pleasant-
est. You must tell me about it to-morrow.
Good night, my dear old fellow."
BOND AND FREE. 61
With the heartiest of hand-shakes, and
the most beaming friendliness in his eyes,
"Verweile doch! du bist so schon."
Wilfred was roused next morning by sounds
strange to him — sounds of just-awakened
birds and of lightly-stirred leaves ; while
through an open window the morning air
came to him, laden with fragrance from
flowers in the garden and heather on the
The low, oak-raftered room in which he
found himself had many casements, each
offering a lovely picture of distant moun-
tainous landscape, of slopes lying in pure
BOND AND FREE. 63
morning shadows, and summits gay in
laughing light ; the creepers clustering
round the window-frames set these pictures
The room was more like a library than
a bed-room; its walls were clothed with
old-fashioned, well-filled bookcases ; the chairs
and tables were of substantial oak; a good
many bronze statuettes and busts, and
several vases full of freshly-cut roses,
It was a new thing for Wilfred to wake,
as he did this morning, to a sense of phy-
sical and spiritual wellbeing — to a conscious-
ness of the purity and beauty of the atmo-
sphere he breathed, and with the expecta-
tion that the day would bring him none
but good things, leaving him richer, happiet",
and better than it found him.
"I have made no compact with any Me-
phistopheles," he said — " I need not be afraid
64 BOND AND FREE.
to cry to this time, ^ Verweile doch ! du bist so
schon ' — I do cry it with my whole heart ! "
He repeated the words in a clear, loud
voice, and then murmured over to himself
passage after passage from the old poets,
in simple, betinzled, or worthily adorned
praise of domestic and country life.
Afterwards he tried to recall everything
that had occurred since he reached Beech
Holmes — ^ tried to recall every kind
word that had been spoken to him, every
peculiarly beautiful expression he had no-
ticed on faces which all seemed to him, in
various ways, lovely. The one sensation
which he remembered with most especial
pleasure was that he had experienced when
the child Felicia's hand so unexpectedly and
confidently stole into his own. As he in-
dulged in this dreamy luxury of enjoyment,
his own thoughts sprang from his brain —
ready armed in words, the sound of which
BOND AND FREE. 65
pleased him. He was far too indolently
happy to do more than murmur them over,
as he had murmured his quotations before ;
but a hazy wonder rose in him and floated
waveringly before his eyes — wonder whether
he should ever have power to write words
over which the eyes of beautiful women
should grow tearful, at which the cheeks
should flush and pale, as Margaret Landon's
had done, while she repeated a short passage
from a favourite poem.
A clear young voice singing far beneath at
last drew Wilfred to the window. He could
see Felicia's fair head glancing in and
out among the rose-bushes, in a garden
that looked very deep down ; he made
haste to go out, but did not find it very
easy to discover that garden and the way
He succeeded at last; and, having re-
ceived her morning greeting, enquired
VOL. I. F
66 BOND AND FREE.
what her occupation was, and if he might
be allowed to help her.
" 1 should very much like you to help
me," she answered. " I want to cut off
every one of the dead roses along this walk,
and some are so high up that I cannot
reach them. Will you take my scissors and
my basket? I will run in and fetch an-
other pair of scissors — the basket will do
She was soon back and they both set to
work — Wilfred stipulating that they should
keep close enough together to talk as they
worked. Sometimes the dead roses, and
often showers of dew, fell upon Felicia's
silky locks. Wilfred liked to see her shake
these off — she did it with such patient and
grave dignity ; her whole manner was sim-
ple and sincere — there was no trace of
childish coquetry about her. Once, when a
long curl got entangled in a thorny branch.
BOND AND FREE. jft?
Wilfred was obliged to go to the rescue.
He touched the child's hair lovingly and
reverently, and thought he had never felt
anything so soft, or seen anything so pretty,
as the tress that clung round his releasing
fingers. Felicia was far too intent on her
work to talk much, but what she did say
seemed to her companion so gracefully
quaint, so simply complete in matter and
manner, that he mused over it and her
wonderingly, marvelling if all little girls of
Felicia's age were as charming as Felicia.
A voice from above the heads of the
diligent gardeners interrupted his thoughts.
" Good morning, Mr. Mason — is it not a
lovely morning? Felicia, child, you have
been out too long — you will be tired before
the day is begun.''
The fellow-labourers looked up. Mrs.
Southern and Mrs. Landon were leaning over
the terrace-balustrade, looking down upon
68 BOND AND FREE.
them. Mrs. Southern's careworn and sun-
burnt face, expressive chiefly of cheerful
patience, and the delicate beauty of Mar-
garet — whose eyes, Wilfred thought, as he
glanced up, lighted her pale face with
tenderly-veiled splendour, as stars light the
sky on a clear and yet dewy summer night —
were in strong contrast, and yet were
brought into harmony by a look of heart-
goodness common to them both.
" Good morning, dear mamma — good morn-
ing, sister Margaret ! " cried Felicia. ^' We
must go in to breakfast now," she added to
Wilfred, putting her hand into his. As they
mounted the many steps to the terrace
she asked confidentially : —
"Do you think the angels are much
more beautiful than my sister Margaret ? "
After a momentary pause — a look, first at
Mrs. Landon, standing above them, the sun
shining upon her morning- dress of spotless
BOND AND FREE, 69
white, then into the questioning face of the
fair child, Wilfred answered : —
"I do not suppose we should feel the
beauty of the angels as we feel the beauty
of some human faces; they would not be
more beautiful for us, perhaps, because we
should not understand their beauty — they
are too far from us/'
" But are they very far from us ? "
" Not from all of us — (^ Heaven lies about
us in our infancy,' indeed). I only meant
they are too different from most of us, for
their beauty to touch us as human beauty
By this time all the family, " except that
lazy Herbert/' had assembled on the terrace ;
and even as his mother was abusing his idle-
ness he too appeared.
Many plans for active enjoyment of the
day were discussed during breakfast ; but
they were all rejected on account of the great
70 BOND AND FREE.
heat of the weather. Some one, however,
by-and-by proposed a quiet day, and then
a row up the lake late in the afternoon,
tea on one of the islands, and return by
moonlight. This scheme met with general
After breakfast the family loitered in the
cool hall and porch awhile, then dropped off
one by one, or two by two. Mrs. Southern
carried off her son, John Landon followed
Blanche into the garden, Mary went about
the business of the house, Felicia ascended
to the nursery to amuse the children while
nurse was busy, Mrs. Landon took her
work out-doors, Wilfred carrying her chair
for her and placing it under the cedar;
Mr. Landon, settled at his wife's feet,
began to work intently at a boat he was
making for his boy. Husband and wife both
invited Wilfred to remain with them ; but he
had made up his mind for a long ramble,
BOND AND FREE. 71
in spite of the heat. Pursuing the same
path he had taken yesterday, he soon climbed
high enough to get the benefit of a fresh
breeze ; he had intended to gain the distant
rocky peak, but it seemed to recede as he
advanced — and before long he was glad
to throw himself down beneath the shadow
of a gray boulder and of an ash which
grew out of it.
The brightness of his morning-mood was
already dimmed : —
" So sind am hartsten wir gequalt :
Im Eeichthum fuhlend was uns fehlt."
Beauty, lavishly displayed, oppressed and
stupefied him ; the desire of possession, de-
sire that this beauty should fully enter
into his being, arose to torment him by its
futility, to make him conscious of dark-
ness of soul and heaviness of spirit.
The music of a little rivulet leaping from
the rock close beside him, set itself to wea-
72 BOND AND FREE.
rily monotonous and melancholy words —
clear and bright as the little stream looked,
for him it would utter no others.
"Found at last!" cried Southern's cheery
voice, as he dropped down from the ash-
tree, alighting close to Mason.
" What a hunt I have had, and how hot
I have made myself! How could you climb
" ' Step by step, stone by stone,
Strain by strain, groan by groan,
The goal is gained, our powers are done,
As loss we count that we have won ;
Life's pleasant plains are out of sight,
Before us frowns a higher height.' "
'^ Which means that you think it was
pleasanter below? This is not bad, how-
Herbert, stretching himself on the moss,
looked up towards the overhanging ash
with an expression of perfect content,
which did not the least change as he
said : —
BOND AND FREE. 73 .
" My mother has sternly kept me to
the point all this time — the point having
been the contemplation of an anything but
satisfactory state of money-matters. My mo-
ther is a capital woman of business, and
there's need she should be ! "
After a brief pause, he continued: —
"A few of the thousands my father was
swindled out of by a nameless rascal —
nameless to me at least — would come by
no means amiss to us now. I do not
think I am very covetous or vindictive,
but I am sometimes inclined to pour power-
ful anathemas on that scoundrel's head.
Heigho ! I wish I could find a royal road
to fortune ! But, enough of my affairs.
Will you be pleased to lift up a corner
of the impenetrable veil that covers yours,
and let me peep in and see something of
your schemes for the future? Not if you
do not wish," he added quickly, as, rising
74^ BOND AND FREE.
on his elbow to look at Wilfred, he no-
ticed that he coloured at the question and
appeared to hesitate to answer it.
" You see, my position is so different
from yours," Wilfred began apologetically
— " I am alone ; whether I sink or swim
does not much matter. I mean to try
whether my brains and my pen will
earn me bread enough to keep me from
The wise Herbert looked grave.
" Did your guardian, such a practical
man, and, I should have thought, a very
obstinate man, consent to this? Did he
leave you free ? "
" He left me quite free." Wilfred
slightly smiled as he answered ; he had
reasons, and not bad ones, for preferring
that Southern should remain ignorant of
the exact nature of his freedom; he knew
the impulsive generosity and unwearying
BOND AND FREE. W
kindness of his friend^s nature — knew how
instantaneous would be the desire and how
dogged the determination "to do something
for Wilfred," should he have reason to
think that Wilfred was friendless and almost
without resources. Having resolved to go his
own way unhelped and unheeded, Mason did
not wish to have to battle against Herbert's
resolution to aid and befriend him.
" Quite free ! " Herbert echoed, thought-
" As I said before, I am alone — one by
myself — my wants will be few — it will be a
hard case if I cannot earn enough to live
" You lay much stress on your being
alone — one by yourself — but do you expect
to live alone always ? "
Wilfred smiled slightly, fixing his soft eyes
full on his friend.
" There is no provoking cause to make
76 BOND AND FREE.
me look so far forward," he said. As he
added, " It is hardly likely, hardly pos-
sible, that I shall ever marry," all the light
died out of his face.
It was Southern's turn to colour — he did
so vividly, as he answered : —
" I won't pretend not to know what you
mean ; but I understand my position better
now than I did when I indulged in those
boyish fancies. I must think of nothing
but work for many years to come. To
return to your scheme : if you need a bread-
winning profession — is it good to take up
authorship in that way ? Is not the time
for living only to write books past ? I
cannot help thinking that you would be
happier leading a more active life. I do
believe that no life is so happy as that
in which each day necessitates the doing
of a day's work — external, compulsory
BOND AND FREE. 77
As Wilfred maintained silence, Southern
remarked : —
" You don't deign me an answer ; perhaps
I seem to you to be arrogantly talking of
what I don't understand ? "
*^I was thinking — what you say about
living only to write books has no meaning
for me. I don't think that any one should
live for any outward result of work — living
should be life's work. A man's aim (an
author's especially) should be, what Goethe
said his was, to improve himself, to sharpen
his own faculties, to raise the standard of
his own personality, and then to express
only that which he recognized as good and
true. What a man has produced should
be merely the necessary result of what he
was, before he pressed on to a higher stage,
and only useful to others who have not reached
that stage. If a man must consciously
live for an object, let him find it within
78 BOND AND FREE.
himself— let it be his own culture and de-
velopment towards perfection." Here Wilfred
broke oflf with a laugh of self-scorn that
did not say much for his belief in what
he was somewhat dogmatically laying down
'^I was going to say, 'so much for your
study of the great German ' ; but I see
you do not feel that what you say is true,
or sufficient — what little belief you have in
it you will lose in a few years. If a
man^s heart is in the right place, and espe-
cially if it is as gentle and single as yours
is, such a theory as that of one's own de-
velopment being a sufficient object to live
for, will never be believed in practically.
Yours is the last temperament to have any
rest amid such dry bones ; you have a real
hunger and thirst (repress it as you may)
after human sympathy. God's purpose in
our lives may be our development towards
BOND AND FREE. 79
perfection ; but I think we are presumptuous
if we fancy that by consciously setting our-
selves to grow great and perfect, constantly
watching our own progress, we shall forward
His end ; it seems to me that those who
act in that way act like children who con-
tinually dig up their plants to see what
growth their roots have made."
"But, recognizing God's purpose in our
lives, ought we not to make it ours ? "
"It seems to me that we cannot recog-
nize God's purpose. His ways are not as
our ways — they are wonderful and past our
finding out. I merely said such might be
" What would you lay down to be the
safe and right aim of all lives ? Is not the
Saint-Simonian theory, that a man should
work for the happiness of others as a
necessary condition of his own happiness,
to the full as selfish in reality, though it
80 BOND AND FREE.
may not sound so, as Goethe's theory that
each man should make his own fortune first,
from which the happiness of others must
" Suppose we say that a man should live
towards God, keeping His perfection before
the eyes of his soul, that he should live for
his neighbours, keeping his heart open to the
needs and sufferings of his kind, mightn't we
hope that such a man's nature would both
broaden and deepen continually ? "
" As yours does, and always will ! " Mason
exclaimed warmly ; " my mind's eye shows
me a beautiful picture of what your life will
be : you will be a true physician, for soul
and body — healing the body consciously, you
will unconsciously heal souls."
" God grant your words may to some
extent come true ! I know, Wilfred, that
higher considerations than you choose to
own have influenced your decision — if de-
BOND AND FREE. 81
cision it is — just as lower ones than you
give me credit for influenced mine. Though
I should like to grow rich, I do not ex-
pect to be absorbed in the pursuit of for-
tune, or to care for it for its own sake ;
and though you may desire to grow famous,
you will not give yourself up to the pur-
suit of fame, or ."
" Fame ! the pursuit of fame ! — if I were
to set myself to pursue anything, it would
be, not fame, but happiness. I do not care
to be famous, but to be happy I have the
most intense longing."
"To pursue happiness would be a great
mistake, you know ; when you fancy she
is within reach, and open your arms to
embrace her, the ' red mouse ' will jump
but of her mouth — the story of Sir Ga-
waine and the loathsome lady will be re-
" You are cruel. ^'
VOL. I. G
82 BOND AND FREE.
^'Not at all — though you may not by
seeking happiness find her, she will, God
grant, find you. Now, let us speculate no
further — I quite agree with Mephistopheles
on this head,* and it is time we returned to
the world again."
" How very beautiful your sister, Mrs.
Landon, is!" Wilfred remarked, apparently
apropos of nothing — as he got up, with
evident reluctance, and they began to de-
scend the hill-side. " She reminds me, in
expression, of an engraving I have seen of
Dante's Beatrice, from a picture of Ary
" I felt sure you would admire her —
Landon, too, is a thoroughly nice fellow
when you come to know him. I hope you
will see a good deal of them if you go
* " Mat ein Kerl, der speculirt
1st v?ie ein Thier, auf diirre Heide,
Von einem bosen Geist im Kreis herum gefuhrt,
Und rings umher liegt schone griine Weide."
BOND AND FREE. 83
to London, as you talked of doing. I
suppose you do not mean to live quite
'the world forgetting, by the world forgot.'
I am sure you will need looking after. My
mother says you are ruining your constitu-
tion by studying at night ; she is certain,
judging you by your appearance, that you
make a habit of sitting up late — this will
be inexcusable when you live alone, and can
choose your own hours. I hope you be-
lieve that power of mind soon decays
where there is no physical power to back
'* You are quite oppressively wise to-day,
Southern!" Wilfred exclaimed. "If I were
to say that I do not set a very high value
on strength of body and length of years,
you would of course be shocked ; you do
not know anything of the soul-sickness which
makes one cry against the burden of being,
and desire death rather than life."
84 BOND AND FREE.
^^ I do know that only the exaggera-
tions of a morbid and diseased imagina-
tion can make any burdens laid upon us
really unendurable; and that what you call
soul-sickness is often only a consequence
of physical weakness or disease. I do not
fancy that you have been the perpetrator
of any mysterious crime, and so have
brought upon yourself a weight of mys-
terious, life-long remorse ; therefore I should
hope that, beyond the burdens borne by
all flesh, no burdens are laid upon you but
such as you may and should shake yourself
After those words of Southern's nothing
passed between them as they went through
the intense wavering heat, till, pausing a
moment on the shady bridge, Herbert
offered his hand to Wilfred — it was grasped
"• None but our own deeds shall affect
BOND AND FREE. 85
our friendship/^ Southern said ; '^ and I
trust that those deeds will only tend to
" Only a child-
Heaven's light yet Hng'ring, lost amid her hair,
Shining serenely forth from mild eyes fair ;
Taking my Fate into her hand she smiled —
That smile was a meek woman's, glad and sad,
Sad from sweet sympathy, to serve me glad."
Late that night Wilfred entered his room, and,
dropping into a chair, yielded himself up
to dreamy meditation.
He recalled the scenes, sounds, and sensa-
tions of the evening — the fairy island on
the enchanted lake, in which were mirrored
the delectable mountains; the water-lilies,
tinged with fire by the sunset and then
BOND AND FREE. 87
blanched again by the moon-beams; Mar-
garet Landon's Beatrice-like face uplifted
to the light as she sang; other happy and
lovely faces ; sweet songs, sweet silences, and
clear ringing laughter ; the measured splash-
ing of the oars and the dancing fall of
sparkling showers of foam pearls. These
things and many more mingled confusedly.
Distinct from all of them he recalled the
feeling that had stolen over him when a
tired child's head had drooped upon his
shoulder and rested there, when his arm had
encircled a slight, soft form. Holding
Felicia thus, Wilfred had trembled with
positive happiness, for he knew that this
child loved him.
The events of the day had excited Wil-
fred — sleep did not seem a possibility. As
he opened his note-book, wishing to write
some few lines that might in years to come
recall this time, the inevitable packet fell
88 BOND AND FREE.
from it. Immediately the current of his
thoughts was changed and chilled. His
eyes took a fiercely hungry look as they
remained fixed on the letter. To-night he
was not patient, or submissive.
" Intolerable ! '^ he murmured. ^^ Where-
ever I go, whatever I do, am I to be
haunted and taunted by my ignorance of a
mystery which only this shred of paper,
this blotch of wax, holds from me. What
if I dare the worst and at once tear out
the heart of this hateful secret? Tear out
its heart ! "
He echoed his own words shudderingly,
and rose from the table; it seemed to his
excited fancy as if he had spoken of tearing
out his mother's heart. As he walked up
and down the room he cried — "Mother!
mother! release me from this intolerable
restraint. A curse is on me, turning to ray
torment what you did in love ! Appear to
BOND AND FREE. 89
me, or by some dream or sign release
Again he gazed at the innocent -looking
packet lying on his table — again and again
he reperused the faded writing of those (as
he called them) fatal lines.
By a train of sophistries, by passionate
exaggeration of the misery of ignorance and
the evil influence of vague dread, he might,
perhaps, have brought himself to disregard
alike his mothers entreaty and her com-
mand, had not a slight sound startled him
from this commune with a familiar demon.
He listened ; some one knocked softly at his
door. Looking at his watch, Wilfred found
that it was nearly two o'clock ; the knock
was repeated a third time, and then, full
of vague and ghostly expectation, he threw
the door open wide.
The child Felicia, covered from head to
foot with a white shawl, stood outside; her
90 BOND AND FREE.
hair, which had been uncurled by the night
dew, drooped heavily on her shoulders — ^her
little feet shone bare and white on the dark
boards ; she was very pale, and the eyes she
lifted to Wilfred's wondering face were full
of timid solicitude.
He did not speak directly, and, unlike a
child, she waited to be questioned; so there
was a momentary silence.
'^ Is anything the matter, Felicia ? How
is it you are not asleep? You were so
tired," Wilfred said.
" I could not sleep. I felt very unhappy
" About me — you dear child ? "
"Mamma said the other day that you
would kill yourself by studying at night ;
from my window I can see the light in
yours. I know it is hours and hours since
we came home, so I thought about your
killing yourself, and I thought that perhaps
BOND AND FREE. 91
if I asked you you would go to bed." She
raised eyes full of soft appeal to his.
"You kind little thing!" Wilfred ex-
claimed. "The light shall be put out before
you can get back to your room, and I
will behave better now that I know that a
kind little friend watches me."
"Thank you, Mr. Mason." She had
bidden him good night, and was closing the
door behind her, when a sudden impulse
made Wilfred recall her.
"Will you come back for a moment,
Felicia? I will not keep you long."
She complied, with gentle wonder in her
face. He set a chair for her, and wrapped
his coat round her bare feet; then, taking
up the packet, he said : —
"I am afraid of being tempted to do
what would be wrong, Felicia, and you
could prevent me — will you ? "
" Oh, yes ! if you will tell me how."
92 BOND AND FREE.
"My mother, who died when I was very
young, left this letter for me, but I may
not open it till another person is dead.
Now, I would cut off my right arm to
know what this letter tells me, and I am
afraid of being tempted to open it before
I ought. I want you, Felicia, to keep the
letter and save me from temptation."
Wilfred's colour rose and deepened as
the child's clear eyes perused his face,
while she seemed to hesitate.
"Perhaps you think me cowardly, un-
manly — think I ought to trust myself, and to
overcome instead of escaping from tempta-
tion ? '' Unconsciously, he no longer spoke
as if to a child.
" We pray not to be led into temptation."
"We do, dear; you will keep me out of
it? — you will take my letter and save me
from this danger? — you will be my little
guardian angel ? "
BOND AND FREE. 93
"If mamma does not mind, I will take
care of it," she said, and let him close her
fingers over it.
** You are my conscience now, dear. (A
pure and fair conscience I have !) May I
kiss your hand upon our compact ? "
The child held up her pale little face to
his, but he stooped lower and kissed her
hand, the hand that held the letter. She
took the kiss sedately, then, looking at him
with a face from which shone a woman^s sym-
pathy and a child's simplicity, she asked,
" Are you always sad ? Is it because
your mother is dead, and you have no bro-
thers and sisters ? " Tears began to drop
from the serene eyes.
Again kissing her hand, Wilfred said,
" You must not cry for me, my darling."
His heart was startled by the sound of that
word of endearment which his lips had pro-
bably never spoken before. " I shall be happier
94 BOND AND FREE.
now that my fate is in this kind little hand,"
Holding the letter firmly, Felicia slipped
down from her chair.
'' Those poor little hare feet ! " Wilfred
looked despairingly at his own boots and
slippers as he spoke, then added,
"You must let me carry you back again
" If you please, if I am not too heavy.
I wasn't frightened coming ; but I think I
might be going back,'' she said. He
lifted her up in his arms, and she clasped
her hands round his neck confidingly.
Her room was a long way off, in an
opposite corner of the house ; as he set her
down at the door she pointed out, she
thanked him in a cautiously subdued voice.
Having seen the door closed behind her,
he returned to his room with a happy hushed
feeling at his heart, "as if he had been
BOND AND FREE. 95
visited by an angel," he told himself.
His first act was to put out the light — his
next to kneel and pray.
" I may keep it — it is locked up in a
box of mine, and the box is put in my
own desk, which mamma takes care of till
I am older."
Felicia told Wilfred this, directly she met
him next morning; afterwards she did not
allude to the matter. No one but Mrs.
Southern, Wilfred, and the child knew of
the incident of that summer night till long
Felicia seemed languid, and looked paler
than her wont all the next day. Wilfred
watched her and waited on her with
a chivalrous tenderness of devotion that
brought a smile to the lips, and tears to the
eyes of the observant Margaret.
*' O Menschenlierz, was ist dein GlUck ?
Ein rathselhaft geborner,
Und, kaum gegriisst, verlorner,
Unwiederholter Angenblick ? "
Varied by all manner of excursions, by land,
water, hill, and valley, the weeks of sum-
mer and holiday flew swiftly. Wilfred be-
came a universal favourite ; he was no longer
the melancholy boy, seeming half-shy, half-
proud, to whom Southern had first been
attracted more by compassion than liking.
His nature had developed rapidly in the
sunshine of a congenial atmosphere ; as he
BOND AND FREE. 97
became more and more gay and uncon-
strained, it seemed to bud with fresh charms
and graces each day. Wilfred was not
naturally shy ; but being at once intensely ob-
servant, and very ill at ease, while — ignorant
of the characters, tastes, and sympathies of
those around him — the air he breathed was,
as it were, foreign to his nature, he was apt
to become wholly absorbed in watching
others, and to forget that he, too, had a part
to play. It was not, therefore, till he had
been some time among the Southerns
that his part was played with ease and
Holiday life at Beech Holmes was utterly
different from any life he had ever known or
dreamed of He had hardly opened a book
during his stay there; his idleness had been
complete, and he was inclined to think cul-
pable ; yet at no period had his mental
growth been so rapid — his whole nature had
VOL. I. H
98 BOND AND FREE.
been richly nourished by the contemplation of
forms of animate and inanimate beauty at
once more real and more spiritual than those
with which his imagination had teemed. These
months were, perhaps, the most of all valuable
to him, in that they freed him from the
thraldom of a habit of incessant and pur-
poseless study, taught him the possibility of
living without books, and plunged him com-
pletely into so pure a " vagabondism of sen-
A lovely evening, coming after some
days of wild, prematurely autumnal weather,
was the last Wilfred was to spend at Beech
Holmes. A shade of melancholy tinged the
mood of almost all the party. Other depar-
tures were impending; the holiday summer
life was drawing to an end.
" When moonlight stole o'er the tints of
eve," everybody assembled on the terrace ;
wonderful quiet reigned as they watched the
BOND AND FKEE. ' 99
moon resting upon, and then slowly lifting
herself up from, the heavy, dusky branches
of the cedar.
John Landon was at Beech Holmes again;
he, too, planned to leave it to-morrow; but
the air — timid, assured, proud, and bashful
— with which Blanche Southern hung upon
his arm, indicated that their parting would
not be a long one.
Mrs. Southern was the centre of this ter-
race group. Felicia, while she leant her
cheek against her mother, let Wilfred^s hand
clasp hers ; perhaps she, the youngest, was
the saddest of the party — she looked as
sad as the serenity of her lovely eyes would
let her. She, better than anyone else, knew
how Wilfred's heart ached at the thought of
to-morrow's parting, and how desolate and
lonely a life that parting would begin for
him. She bore her grief and his, for she
pitied him with that pity of love which
100 BOND AND FREE.
makes the grief of the one loved one's
When they went indoors Mrs. Southern
begged Wilfred to come with her for a few
moments to her den, as she called a little
room which had been the steward's room
in the long-past days of Beech Holmes
After kind enquiries into his plans and
motherly cautions concerning his health,
Mrs. Southern asked if he seriously and
earnestly desired that the packet he had
confided to her little daughter should con-
tinue in the child's keeping.
** I have felt happier ever since it passed
into her hands — pray let her keep it," was
his eager answer.
'^ It is safe with her. We call her, dear
child, Faith, Hope, Charity, and Constancy,
by turns — and do not know which name
suits her best. It is quite safe with her;
BOND AND FREE. 101
but yet I would rather that the letter
were in your own hands."
Wilfred's eyes shone on the mother as
she spoke thus of her child ; but he did
not strive to say a word in Felicia's
praise — to him the child seemed to stand
above all praise ; he only said : —
"Pray let Felicia keep it."
" For the present, then. I shall hope that
you will soon come and see us again, and
that you may then feel inclined to re-
lieve her of her charge. But suppose by
any mischance that we should lose sight
of each other — you may leave England,
or we may be obliged to leave Beech
" The letter is not to be opened while
Mr. Ireton, my late guardian, lives : he is
not an old man, and is, I should think, a
very strong one. The time for opening the
letter may never come ; if I die and have
102 BOND AND FREE.
not claimed it, I suppose it had better be
" I do not know if I have ever told you
that your guardian is not quite a stranger
to me; many years ago — more than twenty
— my husband had a great deal of busi-
ness intercourse with him. I used to hear
his name constantly. I saw him once or
** You know him ! — you knew him many
years ago?" The old expression of wild
and painful eagerness distorted Wilfred's
face. Controlling himself by a great effort,
he asked: —
^^ Do you know anything of his past
life? Anything of his former friends or
enemies ? "
" Very little. When he was a compara-
tively young man, and had just succeeded
to his father's business, he took into his
employ the son of an old friend, placing
BOND AND FREE. 103
him in a confidential position. I do not
know anything of details ; but the young
man turned out very badly — he ruined your
guardian, and others were involved with
him. Mr. Ireton was a proud man-
proud, above all, of an inherited, unspotted
business reputation ; this did not escape.
He had some motive for wishing, as far
as possible, to screen the real transgressor.
Malice suggested an evil motive — scandal
was, I believe, busy with every incident of
his life. I know that my husband con-
sidered his personal probity as unsullied,
but he could not induce others to share
his conviction. Mr Ireton must have led
a life of unflinching toil to have recovered
his position, so far as he has done. I never
knew much of him ; my husband was
in weak health for many years pre-
vious to his death, and led a very quiet
retired life ; it must have been more than
104 BOND AND FREE.
twenty years since I had heard your guar-
dian's name when I heard it from Herbert,
in connection with you.''
" Do you by any chance remember what
scandal said about my guardian's reasons
for wishing to screen his enemy? Some
little truth, or some clue to the truth,
might be sifted out from among false-
hoods. Do you remember his enemy's
name? Was any woman's name mixed up
in the matter ? "
** I do not suppose I ever knew — I do
not even remember hearing the culprit's
name ; whether any woman's name was
mixed up in the matter I have no idea. I
had many young children to nurse and tend,
and little time or interest to spare. My
husband knew everything; but he burnt all
the papers and letters that touched on
affairs of that period — at Mr. Ireton's
express wish, I imagine,"
BOND AND FREE. 105
^* Truly, I suffer a Tantalus torture ! — the
knowledge I desire perpetually evades my
reach by a hair's breadth only — shall I never
grasp it ? "
Wilfred spoke with passionate impatience;
and then, bending his head down upon the
hands that had been clenched in eager
expectation, groaned aloud.
For a few minutes Mrs. Southern re-
garded him with silent pity; then, laying
her hand upon his shoulder, she said : —
" Dear Wilfred, will you take plain
speaking as a sign of affection?"
He raised his head, but, even as he
begged her to speak plainly, it was easy
to see that he shrank from her, as if
expecting to be wounded.
" I always think," Mrs. Southern began
gently, ^Hhat a man, whose position or cir-
cumstances naturally excite pity, should be
peculiarly careful that his character and
106 BOND AND FREE.
conduct shall command respect. A man
whose position and whose character alike
call for our pity, is in danger of receiving
it mixed with contempt — is in danger of
being despised. If there is anything in
your circumstances for which you are to
be commiserated, it seems to me that it is
the more needful that by force of will you
should overcome any inclination to self-pity,
and, by showing self-respect, should make
others respect you. Leave the past alone,
dear boy, and occupy yourself with the
present — with the correction of your faults.
You have so many qualities which can and
will elicit admiration, that it appears to
me to be of the greatest importance that
you should cultivate others of which nature
or education has left you deficient. A
young man whose gifts cause him to be
sought after and flattered, and who is de-
ficient in self-respecting self-restraint, in
BOND AND FREE. 107
steadfastness of purpose, and in power of
will, is peculiarly exposed to many and dan-
gerous temptations — apt to be a plaything
in some hands, and an instrument of evil in
others. I hope you will feel, Wilfred, that
it is because I have something of a mother's
love for you that I presume to lecture you."
Mrs. Southern held out her hand as she
finished speaking. Wilfred grasped it with
a grateful look, but, as he did so, said
despondingly : —
*^ It seems as if everyone I know had
leagued together to exhort me to use
what I do not possess — to be strong where
it is my nature to be weak."
" But the only source of true strength is
open and common to all."
" That may be, but all have not the
needful vessel for drawing the waters."
" That indeed have they, as they find
when the time of real thirst comes."
108 BOND AND FREE.
" Mother ! " exclaimed Herbert, entering
and dragging Felicia after him, " when
are you going to release Wilfred ? A lady-
is anxious for the setting free of her
" You are jealous Herbert, I see — and
you put your own jealous impatience upon
your little sister's shoulders; however, I
won't detain dear Wilfred any longer."
So saying, Mrs. Southern rose and led
the way into the drawing-room.
The terrace commanded, for a consider-
able distance, the road by which the coach
for Silverthorpe must come; here they all
assembled next morning, and as they
watched for its appearance everybody
seemed to strive who could say the kindest
things to the departing guest.
Mr. and Mrs. Landon pressed for a pro-
mise that he would often visit them in
BOND AND FREE. 109
town, to which they meant to return very
soon — Mr. Landon's present business at
Beech Holmes being to fetch his wife and
" The children will be so glad to see
you ; and papas and mammas always make
those welcome whom the children love — eh!
mamma ? " Mr. Landon turned to Mrs.
Southern, after glancing at John and
** Even when they have learnt that the
welcome will be repaid by theft. Such is
our fate, Margaret — you will be overtaken
by the doom some day ; your Lily is a
coquette by birth, and very precocious. As
for me, I shall be left alone in time.^'
^^ Indeed, mamma, I will never leave you —
I will not indeed, mamma," the child
Felicia said, clinging round her.
"You will be last to leave me, no doubt."
"I will never leave you — never, never!
110 BOND AND FREE.
Don't say I will — you hurt me; I will always
stay with you, mamma/'
The childish face was full of serious pur-
pose, and the eyes brimful of tears.
Mrs. Southern stroked the fair young
head soothingly, but her smile, though
tender, was incredulous.
Felicia felt it to be so. She looked up at
Wilfred with a pained, pleading look, as if
to ask that he, at least, would believe in
her constancy. He stooped and whispered
something in her ear which made her
brighten up a little.
The coach came in sight, and they all
trooped down the avenue. Perhaps the
great Beeches there, being so old, that the
sap circulated in them feebly and imper-
fectly, were an easy prey to the early
frosts, and unable to bear the boister-
ousness of the autumn wind ; for already
the wide road beneath them was strewn
BOND AND FREE. Ill
with crisp, yellow leaves and broken twigs ;
while many decayed branches, which had been
concealed by the luxuriant foliage of more
vigorous neighbours, now stretched them-
selves forth, bare and gaunt, serving as
death's-head at the royal festival of gor-
geous autumnal pomp of colouring.
" Try and think of this place as a home,
as long as we remain here, and of me as
almost a mother,'^ were Mrs. Southern's
final words to Wilfred.
At the last moment Felicia placed a
small bunch of autumn violets in her friend's
hand. She said '^good-by," quietly, quietly
lifting up her mouth for his farewell kiss ;
but when the coach was out of sight she
turned her face from the light, hid it in
her mother's gown, and kept it hidden a
Herbert went a stage with his friend.
Both the young men were silent for a good
112 BOND AND FREE.
while. Wilfred looked back till the top ot
the tallest chimney, and then the hill which
sheltered Beech Holmes, had disappeared.
" That is over ! " he said then, drawing
a long breath.
" What an exclamation ! "
''It is like waking from a delicious
dream ; even when I said ' good-by ^ I did
not believe I was really going."
'^ You must soon be there again ; with or
without me you will always be welcome.''
^' I do not feel as if there were a possi-
bility of anything in my life being like this
visit — which is over. I suppose I have
been happy ; but I don't know much about
it. The *me' I have been conscious of at
Beech Holmes is unlike any ' me ' I have
known before. Consciousness of individu-
ality is a strange and perplexing mystery."
" Spare me ! " Herbert said, laughing.
*' Do not laugh. Southern, I cannot to-
BOND AND FREE. 113
day. I feel that I am about to resume
a burden that will press more grievously
than ever. If I could only see in the far
distance some certain time when I might
throw off this burden — when there would
be a probability, even a possibility, for
me of such happiness as my heart craves
hungrily, I could bear on cheerfully ; but
the future looks such a dismal blank.
Life looks so wearily long, so unbrokenly
dreary ! "
" Work, work, work ! Work is the one
unfailing panacea for human ills. Don't
look forward with craving — let good for-
tune take you by surprise ! ''
^^I think a man in your position can
hardly realize what my position is. I want
something external to myself to live for —
in spite of what I tried to make you
believe that I believed, some months ago.
Vague philanthropic cant about living for
VOL. I. I
114 BOND AND FREE.
one's kind, one^s age and generation, won't
satisfy me. I do not believe that one can
live for one's kind, except by living for
^' Right womanishly felt and spoken. Miss
Mason ! " Herbert exclaimed ; then he added
quickly — " I believe I should never have
taken to you as I did, but for that some-
thing womanish which I often feel in you.
I have always been used to womankind,
and you seemed a nearer approach to a
woman than anyone else near me."
"Mr. Ireton called me womanly — woman-
ish, he meant it for a severe reproach. I felt
it to be so — do you, too, mean a reproach
when you call me womanish?"
Herbert did not answer immediately.
" I certainly did not then mean the word
as a term of reproach," he said, after a
pause; "but I stopped to consider if I had
unconsciously implied a reproach. It seems
BOND AND FREE. 115
to me that to call a man womanish may
be to confer the highest praise, or the most
severe censure. I fancy your womanishness
is of a mixed nature ; but I don't feel any
'cair to preach to you. Time will show
what stuff you are made of — at Beech
Holmes, at all events, you will always have
judges more sympathetic than critical — for
Felicia, you are already a hero of romance."
" The friendship of your family will be
my greatest stimulus and safeguard; the
name they know me by will, I hope, win
some honour. I must try and forget that
it is not my name — that some day I may
have to give it up, to take a sullied and
disgraced name in its stead."
" To make that, too, in time an honoured
name ! Would not that be doing something
noble, something worth doing ? "
" It would be too much for me to do ;
I am afraid the disgraced name might
116 BOND AND FREE.
crush me down beneath it, instead of being
raised and purified by me.''
" It would not — it ought not — it must
not ; one day you will be both good and
great — you will justify our love. Accept
that as my parting prophecy — you will not
grow weak and miserable, but good and
" Ich weiss das mir mclits angehort;
Aus der Gedanke, der ungestort
Aus meiner Seele will fliesen
Und jeder gunstige Augenblick,
Den mich ein liebendes Gescbick
Von Grund aus lasst geniessen."
After the country freshness and refined
elegance of everything at Beech Holmes the
stifling atmosphere and mean ugliness of a
cheap London lodging seemed dreadful to
Wilfred, almost intolerable. Walking up and
down his two rooms, late on the night of
his arrival, he asked himself —
"What vague, wild, absurd superstition
118 BOND AND FREE.
could have brought me to this crowded
wilderness ? "
Thoroughly harassed and heart-sick,
irritated almost beyond endurance by the
ceaseless roar and rattle in the street be-
neath, the only sedative he could discover
was the determination to rise early next
day, and either seek another lodging, or al-
together fly from London.
That, instead of doing either, he occupied
those two dingy rooms for very many
months was doubly characteristic — charac-
teristic of his easily changed resolution ; cha-
racteristic, too, in the cause of the change.
He rang for his landlady next morning,
intending to tell her that he should not re-
main with her.
The night before he had only seen a
slatternly servant ; when the mistress came,
she was not much, less slatternly — but she
was a mild-eyed, soft- voiced, dejected-looking
BOND AND FREE. 119
woman, and clinging shyly to her apron was
a fair-haired child, in whom Wilfred found,
or fancied, some likeness to Felicia. This
fancied likeness, together with the mother's
gentle dejection, vanquished him — he signified
a wish for breakfast, expressed himself po-
litely about the accommodation, made some
overtures of friendship to little Jane, and did
not say one word about changing his quarters.
When he had received and arranged his
books and pictures his rooms looked habit-
able ; by degrees he ceased to notice the
dingy tastelessness which had, at first, so
much shocked him. Becoming a favourite of
little Jane's, Wilfred was favoured by her mo-
ther. Jane was often allowed to answer his
bell. Always receiving a kind and gentle
welcome to his room she was not ungrate-
ful; when she went with her mother to the
green-grocer's, or to the market, she some-
times begged, sometimes bought, a few flowers
120 BOND AND FREE.
— these she always arranged in a glass of
water and placed on Wilfred's table.
As upon a new world Wilfred
launched himself upon the London streets ;
he felt a pleasing excitement in taking
his solitary and meditative way, un-
known and unnoticed, among myriads of his
fellow-creatures — nursing the while an unde-
fined, half-sad, half-triumphant consciousness
of the possession of powers that might one
day claim for him the sympathy and admi-
ration of thousands. While the novelty
lasted, the greater part of his time was
spent in the streets; having, by over-use,
worn out this pleasure, he shut himself into
his room and strove to continue a course
of study which the visit to Beech Holmes
had broken off.
At this time Wilfred's scheme was
to earn the small sum on which he
thought he could subsist by giving clas-
BOND AND FREE. 121
sical lessons in any two or three families to
which he could obtain introductions — post-
poning, for a 'few years, the gratification of
other and more ambitious hopes. It was
with dismay that he found the concentra-
tion of mind necessary for study become
difficult, if not impossible — that he found
himself continually falling into reveries,
dwelling intently upon the most trivial de-
tails of the last few months. Sometimes an
hour would pass while his fiugers lingered
between the same pages of a Lexicon, and
his eyes and thoughts were alike withdrawn
from it. Rousing himself from these day-
dreamings he was conscious of the intense
craving, both of heart and brain, for that
beauty and poetry of life of which his pre-
sent seemed barren ; conscious also of infinite
and indefinite effort, that was not wholly
painful, to seize and hold the fleeting phan-
toms of imagination.
122 BOND AND FREE.
The evenings of such idle days brought
remorse for wasted hours, despair at the
lost mastery of mind. He knew that the
distractions which made waste of his life
came from within, not from without, for he
was accustomed to the noise of the street
now, and did not even hear it. The young
student generally enjoys a glorious indepen-
dence, through his power of absorption and
abstraction ; it is not till over-work has made
the brain irritable, or forced work has made
it unhealthy, that outward things tyrannize
Wilfred stood by the window one even-
ing, pondering — asking himself what was to
be done to lay the disconnected thoughts
and fancies which grew and multiplied ; which,
while they made former pursuits laborious
and distasteful, appeared too airy and too
fragmentary to be captured and formed
into a palpable whole!
BOND AND FREE. 123
The room was already dusky, when a
little white face appeared at the door.
"May I stand at your window and see
the lamp-lighter go down the street ? ^' was
"Yes, come in, dear."
Jane watched, standing on a chair with
Wilfred's arm round her, till all the lamps
in sight were kindled and the light of
the one opposite shone into the room ;
then she turned to Wilfred with the ques-
tion : —
"Who lights up all the stars?"
The child was a very ignorant child, as
Wilfred found when he tried to explain
scientifically how the stars were lighted up.
The idea of giving her some simple and
regular instruction crossed his mind — the
time came when he reproached himself with
not having done so.
" God lights them up, doesn't he ? " Jane
124 BOND AND FREE.
asked, at the end of his little lecture, to
which she had listened patiently.
He thought that there was beauty in
the obstinate simplicity of this remark — told
himself that a child's instinct was more sure
than a man's knowledge — and dismissed the
thought of teaching this child. If Jane had
shown him the picture in her mind, of
God as a lamp-lighter, gigantic, and with a
gigantic ladder, he might have doubted the
beauty of even a gentle child's ignorance,
and the spirituality of its instincts.
"Isn't it bad to be here, all alone?"
Jane asked next, turning from the bustling
street to the dim room, not without some
fear in her eyes.
''I am always glad when my little friend
comes in to see me."
" Mother will not always let me come
when I want to come — she says it will
trouble you. You are always writing —
BOND AND FREE. 125
writing, or reading hard books, she says.
Do you ever write pretty stories? There
was a gentleman here once who did — I
couldn't read them, but mother said they
were pretty; but he soon went away.
Mother says he got a great deal of money
and went to a grander house; but he
wasn't nice, as you are; I never wanted to
come in here then, he used to get in such
a passion if Susan made any noise. Do
you ever write pretty stories ? ''
Wilfred answered in the negative, and
just then a voice called Jane ; she asked
her friend to go down the stairs with her,
because they were dark, and he complied.
Eeturned to his dim room Wilfred found
himself thinking of ^^the gentleman who wrote
pretty stories " — questioning whether he
might not do something in that way with
his swarming fancies. He walked up and
down his room till candles and his frugal
126 BOND AND FREE.
tea were brought him. After tea that
walking up and down was resumed. By-
and-by he sat down and began to write.
Goethe's boyish romances, which were
numerous, were generally written in the
form of letters,* as was '^Werther" later.
Wilfred's first attempt at prose fiction was
begun in the same form ; for many hours
he wrote rapidly and unweariedly, memory
and imagination working harmoniously, re-
producing familiar scenes and forms of beauty
in imaginary relations to themselves and to
each other. As he proceeded a feverish haste
possessed him — a dread lest any part of
the fair thought -pageant should sweep by
He was well-nigh outwearied, and the
morning was not far ofi*, when, the flicker-
ing of the expiring candles making it im-
* " Denn ich pflegte einen kleinen Roman zum Grunde zu
legen, den ich in Brief en auszufUhren liebte." — Wahrheit
BOND AND FREE. 127
possible to write longer, he looked up, pushed
back the hair from his heated brow, and
exclaimed : —
"This will be happiness — this life within
life ! — this freedom of imagination ! Surely I
have found an unfailing source of happiness.
I certainly am happy ! '^
The scene of this " happiness " was cheer-
less enough ; the air was raw and murky, the
fire had been out many hours, and there was
nothing cheering in the smoky, flaring candle-
light. He who was "happy'' shook with
cold and agitation — his brain burned, and his
limbs were stiff and benumbed.
What matter ? This was his first taste of
the delight of that " drunkenness of composi-
tion,''* in which all individuality of sensa-
tion is lost ; he was only conscious of joy
in his work and of longing for thrifty rest,
after which he might resume it. Pain does not
* M, Balzac.
128 BOND AND FREE.
always follow close upon pleasant excess.
The young literary roue does not learn at
once that excess in this, as in all other
indulgence, defeats itself, and turns the
cup of joy into bitterness : — that the over-
worked brain acts upon the body, which
then re-acts upon the brain, inducing that
stupor of non-productiveness so bitterly
humiliating to the artist, is a lesson not
learnt from the first sin of excess.
Wilfred woke, feeling somewhat languid,
but eager to resume his work. For many
days he wrote well nigh incessantly : except
that late in the wintry afternoons, when
daylight failed, he generally took a rapid
walk through the streets, he allowed him-
self no recreation. A sunset burning away
in dingy fire, seen through the smoke of
many chimneys ; a young moon, striving
to assert her fairness in spite of mists,
both of earth and heaven ; stars shining
BOND AND FREE. 129
down pure and serene through the haze of
crime and misery hanging over the great
city ; long vistas of lamps, kindling one by
one, through invisible agency ; the vast pro-
portions of the temples, both of God and
Mammon, seen looming through the fogs : —
at that time these common sights excited
Wilfred's fancy more, and stirred more emo-
tion within him, than, later in life, could
the snow-covered mountains and blue lakes
of Switzerland, the awful cascades and solemn
forests of Norway, or any forms of the most
perfect beauty, or most utter desolation of
During this fever of production, wild and
shadowy tales — in which his imagination
worked upon the mystery and dread in
which he enveloped his ignorance of facts
concerning his birth and parentage — incom-
plete poems, and half thought-out essays,
were thrown off one after the other — left
VOL. I. K
130 BOND AND FREE.
behind for something new, the scribbler
pressing on as breathlessly as aimlessly.
On Christmas-eve the bells were ringing
an unheeded refrain to Wilfred's thoughts,
when little Jane brought him a note ; it
contained a few lines from Mrs. Landon, to
remind him that he had promised long ago
to spend Christmas-day at her house.
" When is Christmas-day, Jane ? '' Wil-
fred asked of the child, who lingered in the
room as usual.
" Why, to-morrow ! — don't you know ?
Mother has bought me a beautiful doll, but
I must not play with it till after church-
time to-morrow. There are such pretty
things in the shops — I want to go out
again and see them ; but mother is too
Wilfred pushed his papers into a drawer,
sighing while he did so. As an interrup-
tion to work the festival was not welcome,
BOND AND FREE. 131
and he had no glad or gay associations with
the time. Looking at the child beside him,
he detected a wistful expression in the eyes
fixed on his face ; reading it aright, he told
her to run and ask her mother if she might
go out with him.
" I know I may," was the joyous answer.
And the changed aspect of the pale little
face did Wilfred good; making him con-
scious that he was not so isolated but that
he had power to give pleasure, it made him
feel less out of harmony with the season.
Jane soon returned, looking very pretty
in the blue silk bonnet and white furs, of
which she challenged Wilfred^s admiration.
As they set out together he felt quite
proud of his companion ; he obeyed all her
wishes, listened — really listened — to all her
prattle, and bought her more sweet and
pretty things than she had had given her
before " in all her Christmases put to-
132 BOND AND FREE.
gether." Not being without some natural
delicacy of perception, the child at length
ceased to express her admiration of the things
she saw, lest Mr. Mason should fancy that
she wished to possess them. Thinking she
was tired, and, as the night was cold and
she had a bad cough, not liking to keep
her out long, he took her home.
Escaping from the mother's low-spirited
and abject expressions of gratitude, he went
out again for a solitary prowl about the
streets. The sound of music drew him into
a Roman Catholic chapel, where he narrowly
escaped passing the night — for, having bowed
his head down, to shut out everything ex-
ternal while he gave himself up to the en-
joyment of sounds which thrilled through
his heart and brain, as the music died into
silence he fell asleep.
•?t ^ ^ Jyp ^ Cjp
There was only a family-party at Mr.
BOND AND FREE. 133
Landon's on Christmas-day. Blanche and
Mary Southern were staying there, and a
good many of Mr. Landon's relatives were
assembled. Wilfred felt like one suddenly
awakened from a dream ; he found it diffi-
cult to keep up an appearance of interest
in what was going on round him — difficult
to avoid falling back into the interrupted
dream-life. Want of due rest and of physical
exercise were beginning to tell on him ; he
was shy and nervous, and carried this off
by a manner which made those who had not
known him before think him proud and
The warm and pretty rooms, decked with
flowers and evergreens, the brilliant lights
and the elegant dresses of the ladies, combined
to produce an atmosphere in so strong con-
trast to that of his mean and solitary lodg-
ings, that he could not at first breathe
freely in the one, having been long accus-
134 BOND AND FREE.
tomed to the other. Though Mrs. Landon
paid him all possible attention, the children
were Wilfred's grand resource.
^^ As I drove past Hope's, the great toy-
shop, last evening, I thought I saw you
there with a little girl," Mrs. Landon said,
when she had expressed a fear that her
Lily was troublesome to him.
" My landlady's daughter — a gentle little
creature. She is the greatest, I may
say the only, attraction the house has."
Wilfred brightened into interest as he
" How fond you are of children ! " Mrs.
Landon exclaimed. " Why do you not
come oftener and see ours? Herbert scolds
us for seeing so little of you — by-the-by
he complains that you are a wretched cor-
" You are very kind — he is very kind ; but
I have been very much occupied," Wilfred
BOND AND FREE. 135
answered, confusedly. Mrs. Landon did not
like to question him as to his occupations,
or to caution him about his health, as her
mother would have done : she did not feel
the same elder-sisterly ease with him that
she had done at Beech Holmes. On the
whole, Wilfred did not produce a favour-
able impression upon the Landons — and he
was conscious that he did not : they thought
him grown proud and reserved, and were
afraid that he might resent as patronage
their efforts to keep up intercourse with
him. On his side — going home dissatisfied
with himself, for a day or two feeling un-
settled and restless — ^he formed the opinion
that society was a luxury in which it was
not good that a poor and struggling literary
man should indulge, and that he should be
wise to refuse all future invitations.
In spite of their disappointment in him,
it was not long before the Landons wrote
136 BOND AND FREE.
to ask him to spend a Sunday with them.
Unfortunately, this invitation was brought to
him by little Jane when he was deeply en-
grossed in his work: he gave the child a
mechanical smile and " thank you," and put
the note down; it soon disappeared among
sheets of manuscript, and its arrival was for-
gotten. It was not opened till many months
afterwards, when he came upon it acci-
dentally. Calling at the Landons' house then,
to make what apology he could, he found
the family out of town.
"Concevoir, c'est jouir, c'est fumer des cigarettes en-
chantees ; mais sans I'execution tout s'en va en reve et en
" Wollt ihr hoch auf ihren Flugeln schweben
Wirft die Angst des Irdischen von eucli !
Fliehet aus dem engen, dumpfen Leben
In des Ideals Reich. ! "
Wilfred repeated these lines of Schiller's;
then muttered, with a bitter smile —
*^Very fit advice for a taunting Mephis-
topheles to whisper in the ear of a starving
Faust ! "
Wilfred had just been startled, to find him-
self face to face with pennilessness. By
138 BOND AND FREE.
answering advertisements, he had made two
attempts to get employment as a tutor ;
but references had been required in each
case, as he might have known they would
be, and he had not chosen to refer to Mr.
Landon, his only friend in town.
He had also made an attempt, which
had likewise proved unsuccessful, to get
a tale published in a magazine in which
two of his shorter poems (for which, how-
ever, no payment had been offered him)
Now he sat, with his almost empty
purse in his hand, pondering what to do
next. If he had lately looked forward to
gaining a livelihood by the pursuit of
light, ephemeral literature, he had not
contemplated giving himself up to a
hack-literary life : he had planned that he
could live upon next to nothing; had ex-
pected to earn this *^next to nothing''
BOND AND FREE. 139
easily, and without infringing upon the
time needful for the cultivation of what
higher powers he might possess. He had
said, again and again, that he was not am-
bitious, but, nevertheless, grand visions had
floated before his eyes during the last few
Selecting what seemed to him the most
finished story among the many he had
thrown off, Wilfred sat up late into that
night, correcting and recopying it, de-
signing to offer it to the editor of the
most popular miscellany of that day. Had
he waited for sober day-light, he would
probably have been struck by its crudity
of conception and incoherence of execution,
by its utter want of that ^^nettete^' which
has been called " le vernis des maitres,"
and would have spared himself the pain of
its rejection; but the kindly note, which in-
formed him of its fate, contained a courteous
140 BOND AND FREE.
invitation to *Hry again/' some hints as to
the kind of " article " likely to meet with
the success of acceptance, and several
expressions of encouragement.
Wilfred, tossing the manuscript into the
fire, in the first heat of disappointment
and mortification, exclaimed that his genius
was not to be dictated to : then he coloured
at his own arrogance in using a word, to
him so sacred, in connection with such
worthless matter as was contained in his
For some days after this disappointment
he did nothing but eat, sleep, and roam
the streets, in a state of morbid despond-
ency. When the end of the week came, he
parted with some of his books, that he
might be able to meet his landlady. On
Sunday — a fair spring Sunday — ^he started
for a long walk; his mood was black and
despairing, and he took very little heed
BOND AND FREE. 141
where he went ; but when he found him-
self in the fields, breathed upon by a
south wind and with the mild sunshine
falling on him, found himself alone be-
neath a budding tree, at the root of which
clustered wide and mild-eyed primroses,
then his mood changed wholly : he threw
himself down upoii the turf — tears came
into his eyes as he gazed into those of
the fair primroses — he felt weak as a little
child, but quiet and happy.
^' It is worth living through a bleak
and cheerless winter only to feel and see
the beauty of spring — worth living a bleak
and cheerless life to enter just now and
then into the full enjoyment of mere being.
Thy earth is fair and good, even in Thy
sight, Father ! In this sweet air and warm
sunshine I feel Thy loving breath ! Thou
hast made no creature in vain— teach me
Thy will with me."
142 BOND AND FREE.
After murmuring these and similar words,
Wilfred fell into deep meditation ; but his
consideration of his position and prospects,
though calm, was quite inconclusive ; so,
turning his thoughts from a vexed and
distasteful subject, he gave himself up to
enjoyment of the lovely scene and of his
own vague dreams and aspiring fancies.
His enjoyment was pure — but may we give
ourselves up to the purest enjoyment when-
ever it olBfers itself? Is the wisdom of
those who do so the wisdom of children
of this generation, or of children of light?
Should not Wilfred, finding his brain clear
and passions calm, have bent his reason
and will to the solving of the problem
of how, and for what, to live ? If he
erred, his error was rewarded. Tender
and graceful thoughts and images — uncon-
sciously the primroses had called up the
memory of Felicia — gathered together in
BOND AND FREE. 143
his imagination, and clustered harmoni-
ously to a beautiful whole.
Pacing up and down the sun-quickened
hedgerow, or lying beneath the tree, Wil-
fred let morning pass into afternoon, and
afternoon deepen into evening, before he
turned his steps towards London.
He was hungry and tired enough when
he reached his lodging. His poor room
looked almost homelike. Jane, for whom
he had remembered to gather a bunch of
flowers, was watching for him ; and his
tea, to which, in consideration of his having
had no dinner, cold meat and a nice, fresh-
looking salad had been added, was ready
— the kettle singing beside a cheerful
^* Mother is at church. I might not go,
because of my cough. Mother said that,
for a treat, I might stay here till you
came home; but that I must not stay after
144 BOND AND FREE.
you came in, unless you asked me," Jane
explained this, confidently expecting the in-
vitation she desired.
When she had received it she was at
ease to express her delight with the flowers.
*^And, oh! I am so glad you are come
back," she added, **for I was getting very
frightened. 1 heard mother telling Susan
such dreadful things about a lodger she
had once, who drowned himself in the
river on a Sunday. And mother said
you had been looking so badly lately.''
*^You foolish little maiden! — you are al-
ways frightened about something or other.
But come, you must make my tea for me ;
only I will carry the teapot to the kettle
— it is too heavy for you to lift."
Wilfred piled some books on a chair,
and lifted the child up upon this perch,
in front of the tea-tray. Here she was
in her glory — very sorry when "mother"
BOND AND FREE. 145
and bed-time came together. She prattled
faster, her eyes were brighter, and her
cheeks redder than usual.
'^ I hope she hasn't been troublesome,
sir," her mother said, when, the child in
bed, she came to take away Wilfred's tea-
things. Speaking, she sighed, as was her fre-
quent fashion — '^ She wont be troublesome to
anyone long, I'm thinking," was added in
a lower voice and with a heavier sigh, as
she left the room.
Wilfred pondered over her words un-
easily ; the next time he saw her, when
Jane was not by, he asked their mean-
" ! she's going sir — that's all ! "
** Going ! You don't mean "
" Dying, sir, that's it ; all the others went —
she's the last, and she's going. It don't
so much matter this time ; I just work
on while there's one of them left. She's
VOL. I. L
146 BOND AND FREE.
the last; when she's gone, then I shall
just go too.''
"But, Mrs. Morgan, Jane does not seem
ill ; you muSt not be so down-hearted —
you must be more hopeful."
" I know the cough, sir — haven't I
heard it again and again ? I know the
look of the eyes, too, and the waxy white
round the mouth."
"But, if she is ill, you must do some-
thing for her — you must try country air.
How she would enjoy picking primroses!
Have you had advice ? "
"Nothing makes any difference — she'll
go ; the others did, do what I would.
You're very good and kind "
Here the woman's stolid calm gave
way — she burst into tears, dropped into a
chair, and sobbed convulsively.
Wilfred's cheek paled in the presence of
this real human sorrow ; racking his brain
BOND AND FREE. 147
for consoling words, he was bitterly
grieved to be unable, by reason of his
empty purse, to make any offer to pay
for medical advice, for change of air —
for any of those things on which, in such
cases, hope builds.
Mrs. Morgan soon recovered composure,
and set about that work of tidying up
the room, which was never left to Susan
now, saying, as she did so : —
" Don't notice me — don't pity me ! that
knocks me down sooner than all, sir, and
I must last out till she's gone."
Wilfred could not ask his landlady to
wait a week for the week's rent, because
he knew she wanted money; so more of
his cherished books were disposed of.
Before a third Saturday came, however,
a story of his had been accepted by the
friendly editor who had refused the other :
what seemed to him a considerable sum
148 BOND AND FREE.
of money was now in his hands. Nothing
gives unmixed pleasure to a morbidly
susceptible temperament like Wilfred's — this
success came to him with its bloom
rubbed oflP. He had been requested to
call upon Mr. Brook, the editor in ques-
tion, and had done so ; his reception had
been cordial ; the criticism bestowed upon
his writing was genial, sympathetic, and
encouraging; and yet Wilfred had felt his
soul shrink and shiver beneath this criti-
cism, as exotic, hot-house plants might do
upon having a healthful English breeze let
in upon them; while the bright, pene-
trating eyes of the speaker had seemed to
him to be painfully sharp, and cruelly pierc-
As he returned from this interview,
Wilfred made a resolution that, if he fol-
lowed the profession of literature, he
would, as much as possible, avoid contact
BOND AND FREE. • 149
with his fellow-workers; imagining that
nothing would so much tend to dispel
artistic illusions, and to rub off the fresh-
ness and bloom of fancy, as would the
so-called "mixing in literary circles."
The strict adherence to this resolution,
by which Wilfred showed that persistent
obstinacy in small matters which is often
seen in men who are weak and wavering
in important things, made him some enemies,
and caused him, in the days of partially-
achieved success, to be as lonely as in those of
early aspiration and struggling endeavour.
Notwithstanding all drawbacks, the pos-
session of his first-earned gold brought a
sense of joy and power with it. Reach-
ing his lodgings, Wilfred's first thought
was of little Jane ; his first words were
of inquiry for her — for a few days he
had lost sight of her.
" She's very bad to-day, sir — she's
150 BOND AND FREE.
been talking, wandering like, the night
through. She won't get up to-day."
When Wilfred begged Mrs. Morgan to
send for any medical man in whom she
had confidence, she complied, more to gra-
tify Wilfred than because she had any
hope. The physician for whom she sent
having visited the little sufferer, Wilfred
questioned him as to what could be done
to arrest the progress of disease — ques-
tioned him closely and eagerly.
The doctor's answer — that he was called
in too late, that the child was surely
marked for death — cruelly robbed Wilfred's
first success of the gloss of unselfish joy.
— " ^ Too late ! ' — in this world all good
things come too late," he murmured to
Towards the evening of that day Mrs.
Morgan came to Wilfred in great distress;
she begged him to go up and see Jane,
BOND AND FREE. 151
and try if he could in any way quiet
her. She added, by way of explanation —
"That silly Susan has let out what the
doctor said, and fear' 11 kill the child at
once, I'm thinking."
Wilfred followed her up the narrow
attic stairs to where the child lay. He
shuddered to hear the stifled cries which
were only interrupted by terrible fits of
The unexpected appearance of her friend
startled little Jane into quietness ; she
fell back on her pillow exhausted, and
lay still, her hand in his.
The poor mother left them together.
Presently the child said, in a timid
whisper : —
"Susan is wicked to tell stories. I
shall not die, Mr. Mason, shall I? That
kind gentleman did not say so, did
152 BOND AND FREE.
Wilfred's soothing, evasive answers and
loving words drew the child on to let him
see of what her ignorant notion of death
consisted — first of being laid in the wormy,
foul earth of the black churchyard, close by,
peering through the railings of which she
had often watched an interment ; then of
suffering, with some part of herself which
she had heard called her soul, fiery and
endless torments, in that hell which Susan
had threatened her with when she had
been a naughty child; and she thought
she had very often been a naughty child,
and that God must be so angry that
"he would let the devil have her."
As she ran on with feverish, frightened
talk — questioning Wilfred as to this hell,
this devil, and the amount of her own
sinfulness — his spirit stood aghast at the
hideousness of the horrors crowding the
poor child's mind; recalling how the idea
BOND AND FREE. 153
of giving her regular instruction had oc-
curred to him, only to be lightly abandoned ;
he felt that he was culpable — that this
ignorance which left room for such ghastly
images was a sin to lie heavy upon his con-
science. All he could now do to retrieve
his error of omission he did, faithfully
Without directly answering Jane's ques-
tions, he began to speak of a churchyard
in the country, where beautiful grass and
flowers grew upon graves shaded by trees
in which birds sang sweetly, and where
little children came to play and gather
daisies. He drew such a picture of the pret-
tiness and the peace of the place, dwell-
ing on details likely to captivate a child's
fancy, that when he ended, Jane said : —
"I should not so much mind dying
if I might be taken to such a nice
place as that."
154 BOND AND FREE.
Wilfred gave her his earnest promise
that she should be taken to just such a
place. Soothed by this, and by his gentle
tones, she became quiet. The room was
getting dark now, presently he thought by
her breathing that she had fallen asleep.
But when he rose to go she started up,
cried that he must not leave her — that
the room was full of horrid things. Terror
again took full possession of her ; she
uttered shrieks that turned his blood cold
Wilfred felt that the most difficult
work was yet to do ; he procured a
light, and then began to speak of God as
a tender Father, who was especially tender
to children ; of Jesus as one who loved
children, and called them round him,
though we are not told that they were
all '' quite good " children ; he tried to
make it clear to Jane that it was no
BOND AND FREE. 155
more probable that a God, who was a
God of love and mercy, should suffer
any devil to " take away " and torment
one of his creatures, than that her
mother would permit any bad person to
take away and ill-use her little daughter.
He talked on and on, surprised at the
readiness of his own faith for the child,
and at the ease with which words came to
his tongue. Jane listened with a thirsty
face, that gradually grew less eager and
fevered. At last, her evil spirit cast out
for a time, she slept a calm, cool sleep.
But though Jane received all Wilfred
told her, with unquestioning faith, one
hour's talk could not enlighten the su-
perstition, or banish the terror, which had
been the growth of years. The poor child's
paroxysms of frenzied fear recurred
again and again, though happily with
156 BOND AND FREE.
Every evening, therefore, before dusk
began to gather, if Jane were not well
enough to be brought to the sofa in his
own room, Wilfred now took his station
by the tiny bed in the attic ; with
soothing talk, or a story told or read,
he whiled away the dreaded hour between
day-light and candle-light. Oranges, grapes,
ice, early strawberries, any cool and
pleasant dainty that suggested itself to
his imagination, or hers, it was his
pleasure to procure for little Jane.
Just at this time he received a kind
and urgent invitation to Beech Holmes, to
be present at Blanche Southern's wedding : —
" It is real May-time now — soft and
sunny — more pleasant and lovely than
you, in smoky London, can imagine,"
Mrs. Southern wrote. " Our bride and
our bridesmaids will be bonnie — and,
altogether, the wedding will be a pretty
BOND AND FREE. 157
sight. Do come ; we all, and especially
Herbert and Felicia, count upon your
Wilfred did not for a moment hesitate
how to answer. If Jane had been his
own dying child it could not have
seemed more impossible to him to leave
her side than it now did. In his letter,
which he strove to make express his
deep gratitude for Mrs. Southern's kind
remembrance, he merely stated that it was
impossible for him to leave town at
present, without giving any reason why
it was impossible : if they did him less
than justice on receiving that answer,
later, when the truth oozed out, one of
them at least did him more than justice,
thinking his self-denial most chivalrous
As the child's end drew near, Wilfred
often watched by her half the night,
158 BOND AND FREE.
while her mother took some sorely-needed
If Jane slept, he thought much at
these times — of the sweetness of human
ties and the agony of their breaking — of
his own absolute loneliness — of there
being no one who would keep a watch
of love by his bed of sickness, or a
watch of sorrow by his bed of death.
And perhaps it would be so ever — per-
haps he might never call any woman
" wife," or have any child to call him
One morning when the mother came to
relieve his watch he relinquished the tiny
hand, that lay cool and listless in his own,
with peculiar reluctance, and the light pres-
sure of his lips on the marble-pale brow
was a long, lingering pressure. That day
little Jane died ! She was buried in a
country churchyard — such a one as Wilfred
BOND AND FREE. 159
had described to her. Her friend often
visited the place, often stood beside the
small mound, gazing on the simple head-stone
which he had put up to mark the place
where she had been laid to rest.
For many a day there was a sore spot
and an aching void in Wilfred's heart.
Many a time he found himself listening
for light feet on the stairs, or looking
with wistful expectancy towards his opening
door. Experiencing a new pang of loss,
he returned to his work in an embittered
mood, which mirrored itself in that work.
This little creature — this one human being
who had brightened his life by her love — this
his one ewe-lamb — might have been spared
to him, he thought. Giving himself up
entirely to the fitful and fantastic prompt-
ing of his powerful but morbid imagination,
he allowed his practical human sympathies
to narrow daily. His longing for idealized
160 BOND AND FREE.
ties, for a form of happiness which he
believed to be impossible for him, grew
and deepened in proportion as his life be-
came more and more isolated and barren.
Long after he could have afforded better
accommodation — for he met with more
success than was wholesome for him at this
crisis — he remained at those dingy lodgings ;
perhaps as much from apathy and indolence as
from consciousness of a lingering charm about
them. It was not till Mrs. Morgan gave
up the house — going to die among country
friends — that he left it. Then he left
London altogether for a time ; but this
was not till little Jane had been dead '^a
weary while " — as her mother said — not till
he counted the time he had occupied those
rooms by years rather than by months.
" God's cMef angel waiteth for
A brother's voice to sing ;
And a lonely creature of sinful nature —
It is an awful thing."
Excessive, suicidal work, without any worthy
aim, to very little worthy result, alternated
in Wilfred's life with an utter idleness —
during which he was morbidly miserable,
and believed all literary power lost to him
for ever — according as the urgent need
for the mental action of expression, or
the apathetic dulness following upon over-
strained effort, effacing all belief in any
good, possessed him.
VOL. L M
162 BOND AND FREE.
In his most morbid moods ^^to win a
name " was now a dread rather than an
" Who is this Mason ?" he fancied he
heard people enquire, after he had published
a novel which attracted considerable atten-
tion. Imagination would run riot in an-
swering the question it had itself suggested
— depicting various depths of inherited in-
famy into which the revelation of his real
name might some day plunge him. Some-
times he would be so far possessed by his
demon of self-torment as to hear a mocking
intonation in any voice that addressed him
as "Mason," and to read dubious question-
ing in the eyes of any stranger who chanced
to glance at him. Wrapping himself more
and more within himself, he excused him-
self to accusing conscience by pleading that
he had no right to make friends — no right
to receive or confer benefits ; that he did
BOND AND FREE. 163
well to shrink from his fellows now, as
they might, when the time came, shrink
Of course these morbidly miserable moods
sometimes made way for brighter ones.
There were seasons when to walk in the
sunshine — to look at a beautiful picture or
a beautiful face — to listen to grand or
touching music — to read noble prose or
exquisite verse — or to be conscious of a
creative stirring in his own mind — seemed
to fill his whole being with a vivid joy ;
so that he would say, " Life is worth
living for, if it only brings just a few
moments of such joy as this ! "
Walking along a street one morning, in
one of his dreariest moods, he was aware
that, for a few moments, some one had
pertinaciously kept pace with him: but he
did not care to turn his head till a hand
was passed through his arm. Looking round
164 BOND AND FREE.
then, he looked straight into Herbert South-
ern's eyes, beaming with fun and friendliness.
" It does my heart good to see you ! ''
he said, coming to a dead stop — " mis-
chievous as ever ! I felt that some one
was keeping close by me, but supposed it
only accident. I did not dream of your
being in town."
^' You must come with me at once ; I
was on my way to hunt you out. My
mother and Felicia are also in town."
"At Mrs. Landon's?"
" I should like of all things to see them ;
" No buts ; I know that you have treated
the Landons, and all of us, abominably;
but we will forgive you if you will behave
They walked on together, chatting
gaily — for Wilfred's dreariness could not re-
BOND AND FREE. 165
sist the contagion of Herbert's cheery,
hearty kindness. When they reached the
Landons' door, Herbert said —
" I shall try and pass you oflf as a stranger —
you are very much altered, and I didn't
say I was going to try and find you.''
"Always looking out for a joke, as of
old," Wilfred remarked, rather nervously.
"You don't blame me? There's much
work and little play in my life at present
— in most lives always. Though all the
knockers in this street are on the broad
grin, I daresay they see funerals pass as
often as they see weddings."
So saying, he laid a vigorous hand on
the facetious knocker, and gave a rap that
made Wilfred's nerves vibrate.
Mrs. Southern was alone in the drawing-
room when the young men entered it : the
green Venetian blinds were down, and her
sight was not very good. Herbert intro-
166 BOND AND FREE.
duced Wilfred to his mother, as he would
have introduced a stranger, slurring over
the name. For the time she was quite
deceived. After a few moments had been
passed in grave discussion of the weather,
and of the gaiety of town-life at this season,
Felicia came into the room ; she hesitated
a moment, but Herbert went through a
formal introduction of his friend Mr. ,
making an almost inarticulate sound, to " my
As Wilfred rose, a sunbeam straying in
between the blinds fell on his face. Fe-
licia's colour deepened ; she turned a pretty,
perplexed look, first on her mother, then
on Herbert, as she took a seat. Felicia
was now no longer a child ; she had lost
something of her childish beauty, and had
not yet gained womanly grace ; her face
seldom struck strangers as beautiful, but
all observant eyes turned to it again and
BOND AND FREE. 167
again, loving to dwell on its pure colouring,
its delicate refinement of form, and its ex-
pression of calm sense, quiet goodness, and
Eeceiving no information from either of
her questioning looks, Felicia, seated be-
side her mother, took up her work; but
when Wilfred spoke — he had only bowed
as he was introduced to her — flushing crim-
son, she turned to her mother, and said
"Mamma! It is Wilfred! Isn't it?
Herbert is playing us a trick."
Mrs. Southern had been secretly puzz-
ling herself over the familiarity of the
"Why, Herbert, you rogue, to deceive
your old mother ! " she now exclaimed.
Extending both hands to Wilfred, in cor-
dial welcome, she added, " I am delighted
to see you — delighted to have the oppor-
168 BOND AND FREE.
tunity of thanking you for some truly
pleasant hours, and of congratulating you
on your success. We are very clever
now, we always find you out. I should
have been deeply disappointed if I had
gone back to Beech Holmes without hav-
ing seen you."
Genuine pleasure lit up Wilfred's face
and shone in his soft eyes, as he re-
turned the pressure of Mrs. Southern's
Herbert stood by, enjoying his partial
*^But Felicia was not half taken in,*'
he said, regretfully.
"Should you have known her?'^ asked
"Anywhere. I do not think she is
altered," Wilfred answered.
He saw the same loving serenity in her
eyes — the same simple, happy smile on
BOND AND FREE. 169
her mouth, and did not observe other
changes, till he found that the child who
used to be far below his elbow was
now a maiden, literally " as high as his
When Mrs. Landon joined them, Wilfred
had been so thoroughly roused and hu-
manized by surprise and pleasure, that he
made his much-needed apologies with grace-
ful earnestness. They were accepted gra-
ciously, yet in a way that showed they
were not felt to be needless.
After having accompanied his friends on
their morning round of sight-seeing, Wil-
fred returned with them to the Landons,
to dine and spend the evening there.
Herbert, who was in practice in the North
with his brother-in-law, John Landon, was
obliged to leave town next day. He
begged Wilfred to be his mother's occa-
sional escort while she remained, and an
170 BOND AND FREE.
appointment was made for the very next
Mrs. Southern had no remorse in occu-
pying Wilfred's time. She thought he
looked overworked, and as if a holiday
would do him good ; so for a fortnight
he was in almost daily attendance, escort-
ing Mrs. Southern, Mrs. Landon, and
Felicia to such places as they wished to
Felicia was always the member of the
party most immediately under his charge ;
and to her, child as he still thought her
— perhaps because he thought her such a
child — he spoke more of his outer and
inner life than he had ever spoken to
anyone before ; so that, guided by her
clear sense, she came to have some idea
of its peculiar loneliness, its peculiar trials,
and its peculiar temptations. To her, too,
he spoke of little Jane — of what she had
BOND AND FREE. 171
been to him, and of how he had missed her.
Quite unconsciously, he talked above his
ordinary self when he talked to Felicia;
just as, with many other people, he kept
the most precious things of his soul secret
and hidden, and involuntarily lowered his
ordinary standard of principles and convic-
From whatever cause it arose — whether
from love of ease, or from want of moral
weight to balance a too great love of
approbation — it is certain that Wilfred,
whose intellectual individuality was sharp
and clear, had, at this time, a dangerous
pliability and adaptability of ethical cha-
racter. Believing Felicia to be completely
pure and loving — all that is most excel-
lent in child and woman combined — the«
contact of her being elevated the tone of
his own. It is possible that he somewhat
idealized a good child — but that is no
1 72 BOND AND FREE.
matter ; the influence was the same as if
she had been all angel, as he imagined
her, and as no child or woman is. For
her his best and deepest qualities were
always those uppermost. Content to revere
where she could not understand, and find-
ing food for reverence in what she did
understand, this close and confidential
intercourse only tended to foster and
confirm the tender, pitying, and yet almost
worshiping, admiration which Felicia al-
ready entertained for the young author.
Almost always calm, her enthusiasm and
romance being as undemonstrative as they
were deep-seated, most people regarded
Felicia as just a thoughtful, practical, and
amiable little creature ; certainly not clever,
.still more certainly not poetical, therefore
not in danger fi:'om influences to which they
would have hesitated to expose a more sus-
ceptible and imaginative girl.
BOND AND FREE. 173
She was not clever; in that they were
right — her intellect was neither quick nor
particularly clear : nor was she highly ima-
ginative — while her susceptibility was of so
fine and subtle a nature as seldom to be
perceptible through the veil of habitual
reticence. Her understanding seemed to lie
almost wholly in her affections — she appre-
ciated beauty with her heart, not with her
mind ; her nature was one in which a rare
candour and a rare reserve were exquisitely
From what Wilfred had said about his
landlady's little daughter, Felicia had ga-
thered how good he had been to her, and
that for her sake he had declined to visit
Beech Holmes. Other things of a similar
nature she secretly treasured in her heart
till, long after, some real or fancied attack
upon her hero led her to pour them out
174 BOND AND FREE.
as SO many triumphant proofs of his good-
ness and gentleness of heart.
The last day of Mrs. Southern's stay in
town was a sad day for Wilfred. When
he was alone with the mother and daugh-
ter, Mrs. Southern asked him if he would
not now take back his letter — Felicia had
brought it to town with her, in case he
should be willing to do so, she said.
Wilfred looked earnestly at Felicia —
her colour had risen, and tears stood in
" Would you rather I took it ? Is the
care of it a trouble — a burden to you ? '' he
" Oh, no ; indeed no ! Dear mamma, let
me keep it still, if Wilfred wishes it."
"Does Wilfred much wish it?"
"In taking it from Felicia, I should
feel as if she and you both gave me up
BOND AND FREE. 175
— as if there were no longer any link be-
tween me and my only friends."
'^You would be a very absurd boy to
feel any such thing; if there is ever any
giving up in the case, it will be you who
give us up. However, you must have your
own way : let things be as they are for the
While receiving warm thanks from both
Felicia and Wilfred, Mrs. Southern had an
undefined consciousness of having done un-
wisely in allowing herself to earn them ;
however, as the deed was done, she strove
to overcome that feeling.
Next morning Wilfred went early to
Mrs. Landon^s, meaning to accompany his
friends to the station. Felicia was in the
drawing-room alone when he arrived; she
sat by the window, and did not hear him
enter. When he approached her, the eyes
raised to his were full of tears ; there
176 BOND AND FREE.
was a sweet sadness about her mouth too —
few mouths can look so sad, and at the
same time so perfectly sweet, as did Felicia's.
"You have had a happy visit," he said,
as he seated himself by her ; " but you
are not sorry to go back to Beech
"You are grieved to leave your sister?"
" Oh, no ! for she is coming to us very
As Wilfred's eyes still questioned her,
she looked up into them bravely, and
" I was thinking of you— it was that made
me feel sad."
"Of me, my child?"
" They say you have no friends here
— that you are not happy — -you will miss
Wilfred took one of the child's hands
BOND AND FREE. 177
in his and answered, speaking very softly : —
'' Indeed I shall miss you, but I hope
to be happier and better for having been
so much with you. I will be happier and
better if only for your sake. You have done
me great good, dear child. I will not for-
get what I owe you. God bless you, and
give you all happiness ! '^
She joined her other little hand timidly
over the one he held ; he bent down and
kissed it ; when he raised his head and
met her eyes, the unconscious love they
expressed made him tremble, filling him
with a sense of trouble and of delicious
awe. But the loving eyes were serene,
now the tears had fallen from them
they did not lower themselves before his ;
nor did the colour on her cheek deepen.
Felicia did not tremble, though, silly child
as she was, she felt a thrill at the
touch of her hero's lips upon her hand,
VOL. I. N
178 BOND AND FREE.
believed that touch to have in it something
sacred and consecrating which made a feel-
ing of holy happiness steal over her.
For a long time she did not willingly
offer that hand to any casual acquaint-
" Alas ! both heart and brain are dull and dusk —
That which hes here is but a graceless husk ;
Although of violets, sweet-briar, and musk
The o'er-scratched pages tell,
I know, alas ! full well,
But little fragrance in the thoughts doth dwell !
" How fain would I that this my work were fair !
Bright as the gleam of her dear golden hair,
Pure as her child-heart, so that I might dare
Lay it before my Queen,
And see her eyes serene
Raised from its pages large with loving sheen."
By the next spring Wilfred had written,
re-written, retouched with most fastidious
care and dainty patience, and at last come
to regard as complete, a poem which it
180 BOND AND FREE.
was then his ambition to get published,
that he might send a daintily-bound copy
to Felicia. He had never before written
with so much purpose and quiet diligence;
had never expended so much subtle re-
fining care on any work. In spite of
his despair, contrasting what it was with
what he had hoped and dreamt it would
be, he was conscious that this poem was
more powerfully imagined and consistently
executed — had more reality and worth than
anything, either prose or poetry, which he
had previously written.
He took it first to a house which had
published his novel, and had offered him
liberal terms for his next ^* work of fic-
tion ; '^ but the firm declined undertaking
the publication of his poem. When it had
been also declined by three other firms,
the author took his manuscript home, say-
ing that it must bide its time — wait till
BOND AND FREE, 181
he could get it printed at his own ex-
pense. Though this was said calmly, the
disappointment was hitter. Wilfred had
not suffered himself to have any other
work on hand while he wrote this poem —
he had given himself up to it entirely :
it was done for Felicia, and if it were
not well done it should not be through
carelessness. Though he had lived fru-
gally, he now found that his finances were
at a low ebb ; he felt ill, too — unfit for
any brain work.
He lingered in London during the sum-
mer months ; sometimes almost prostrated
by low fever, sometimes well enough to
write a chapter or two of the novel
which had been so long set aside. Tem-
pestuous autumn weather set in early. It
was just at the close of this summer that
Mrs. Morgan at last resolved to give up
the house in which he had lodged so
182 BOND AND FREE.
long ; the furniture was to be sold off;
the lodgers were, of course, forced to de-
part. Being, as it were, turned out of
doors, Wilfred was seized with an uncon-
trollable longing to meet the fierce wind
on some sea-shore, or in some mountain-
By parting with the remainder of his
books, with very few exceptions — dis-
posing of part of his wardrobe, and
schooling his pride so far as to request
the payment of a small sum which had
long been owing to him, Wilfred got to-
gether money enough to gratify this long-
ing. He made his way into North
Wales, and took up his quarters at a
road-side inn near a small fishing-village.
The place had little but its cheapness
and quiet, and an almost savage wild-
ness, to recommend it : the shore
was low and sandy ; the sea generally
BOND AND FREE. 183
broke on it with a heavy thud, in long
sweeps of turbid surf ; inland a
sandy plain, overgrown by hardy plants —
the sand-rose, the sea-pink, yellow poppy,
and blue sea-thistle, things of a briny and
prickly nature, yet not without a beauty
of their own — was bounded by a bank of
low hills, beyond which, one behind
another, rose several mountain ranges.
Such was Abergwynn : its bracing air
revived Wilfred ; its wildness in that wild
weather deeply pleased him ; the wind and
waves were boisterous and health-giving
He had been there nearly two months,
when, as he lay on a patch of shingle
one sunshiny morning after a gale — watch-
ing the advance and retreat of huge breakers,
and speculating whether the tide would
roll in as far as a certain sea-thistle- —
he by and by saw a lady and gentleman,
184 BOND AND FREE.
mounted on Welsh ponies, come round a
low point at the extremity of the bay and
scour the sands to and fro, keeping close
to the water's edge. Wilfred now watched
them instead of the breakers — for he usu-
ally had the whole stretch of shore to
himself; he saw them presently leave the
sands and turn their ponies inland. List-
lessly wondering who they might be, he
had returned to the contemplation of the
waves, when the lady flew close by him
— half blinding him with the sand and
shingle thrown up by her pony's hoofs.
Disgusted at the rudeness of the act, and
not inclined to run any further risk of
being trampled on, he rose and began to
stroll from the spot, farther along the bay.
** Stop her ! — for heaven's sake, stop
her ! " a voice cried after him.
He turned. The speaker was a short,
somewhat stout, elderly man, who had
BOND AND FREE. 185
apparently been thrown from his horse,
for he was covered with dust and sand,
and seemed to be half-paralysed by fear.
After a glance into his horror-stricken
face, Wilfred swept the shore with his
eyes for the cause of this alarm ; but he
did not immediately discover it.
" Where is she ? " he asked.
Looking then in the direction in which the
gentleman pointed, he saw the lady ; she was
still clinging to her little steed, which was
plunging wildly in the foamy waters, strug-
gling seawards. Wilfred was soon at the
water's edge, close to her ; just at that
moment a crested wave swept completely
over both horse and rider.
" Get off! — throw yourself into the water,
and I can save you ! '^ Wilfred shouted,
when the wave had retreated.
The girl turned a white, resolute face
towards him for a moment, and shook her
186 BOND AND FREE.
head ; then she again bent over her pony
— patting its neck, talking to it, using
every effort to turn its head towards the
shore, without success. The frightened crea-
ture plunged about frantically ; it was already
almost out of its depth — another large
wave would, in its retreat, sweep it out
to sea. The gentleman now stood by
Wilfred's side, screaming and shouting; but
the girl appeared to pay little heed.
There was no time to be lost : they both
saw a huge billow gathering ; the girl saw it
too — for she raised her head a moment,
and then seemed to redouble her efforts. A
few instants later Wilfred's arms were
thrown round her; he pulled her from her
saddle and dragged her a few feet nearer
the shore ; then the wave overtook them,
broke over them, and knocked them down.
When it had passed he rose, succeeded in
carrying his burden to a safe distance,
BOND AND FREE. 187
and then fell down breathless and ex-
The lady sprang to her feet immediately.
Freeing her eyes from her wet and heavy
hair, she looked out seawards — to see a dark
object borne farther and farther out.
** My poor Mountaineer, she is lost !
I might have saved her ! " she cried, as
much in anger as in grief.
^^But for this gentleman you would now
be out of reach of human help, as your pony
" Possibly ! I meant to save the poor
beast, or to share her fate !"
She turned sullenly from her father to
look at Wilfred, who, resting on his arm,
was slowly regaining breath. At first her
large eyes kept a resentful expression in
them ; then, extending her hand to her pale
deliverer, she said : —
**Let me help you to get up. I don't
188 BOND AND FREE.
know that my life was worth the trouble
you have taken, and I think I might have
saved the pony if you had left me alone ;
but you acted bravely, and I suppose that
I ought to thank you."
Wilfred rose without touching the prof-
fered hand — the girl's tone displeased him.
Turning from her with a bow, he said to
" I believe I can be of no further assis-
tance ; unless, if you are far from home,
you would like me to try and get you some
" I shall walk home, papa," the girl
said ; then, looking out to sea again, she
muttered, ^^ My poor Mountaineer ! — it's
far worse to you to meet death than it
would have been to me ; you battled fiercely
— I think I should have kept calm."
" What frightened the lady's horse ? "
BOND AND FREE. 189
" Some heaps of burning rubbish. It
would not go through the smoke. My
daughter strove to make it, and it wheeled
round and dashed straight into the water."
Having gathered up her wet habit, the
lady began to walk towards the point from
behind which Wilfred had seen her appear;
but she suddenly paused, turned back to
him, and said: —
^'Papa has his hat to find, and his pony
to give orders about. You are wet — will
you walk home with me at once ? Our
house must be nearer than yours."
Wilfred declined the invitation, and she
immediately turned from him with an air
of having done a disagreeable duty.
The gentleman, having had time to collect
his scattered ideas, now warmly seconded his
daughter's invitation — warmly expressed his
own gratitude, telling Wilfred that he felt in-
debted to his courage and presence of mind
190 BOND AND FREE.
for the life of his only daughter. He could
not, however, prevail upon Wilfred to accept
of his hospitality.
"I am afraid my daughter's manner
seemed cold — pray excuse her. Mountaineer
was a great pet ; she will feel more grate-
ful when she has got over the first shock of
her loss,'' he said, apologetically.
A boy now brought up the gentleman's
hat and his pony, which, after throwing its
rider, had remained quietly feeding near the
spot. Unwilling to keep Wilfred standing
in his wet clothes, he took leave of him
and followed his daughter, leading his
pony by the bridle.
That night Wilfred's rest was disturbed
by dreams which distorted and grotesquely
misrepresented the events of the morning —
continually presenting to his imagination
that unnaturally calm, white face, sur-
rounded by clinging masses of wet hair,
BOND AND FREE. 191
and lighted by large, resentful eyes. By
daylight, too, and as he sat at breakfast
in the inn parlour, he thought a good
deal of his strange adventure — recalled the
half-contemptuous gesture with which the
girl had extended her glittering wet, white
hand to him, and marvelled how much
there was of reality, how much of affecta-
tion, in the indifference to life which she
Before he had risen from the breakfast-
table, a groom rode up to the inn door.
Wilfred's window was open — he heard the
man enquire of the landlord whether he
had a gentleman staying in the house ;
receiving an affirmative answer, he further
asked if that gentleman had been on the
shore yesterday morning when his lady's
horse took fright. A moment after two
notes were brought to Wilfred, with a
message that Squire Narpenth's groom waited
for his answer.
192 BOND AND FREE.
The note Wilfred opened first was from
Mr. Narpenth, reiterating yesterday's ex-
pressions of gratitude, inviting Wilfred to
take up his quarters at his house for as long
as he remained in the neighbourhood, and
begging that he would do so in time for a
six o'clock dinner on that day.
Wilfred hastened to write an answer : ex-
pressing his pleasure at having been of
service, he briefly declined to avail himself
of the invitation. It was not till the man
had ridden off with this answer that Wilfred
opened the second note.
It was written in a foreign-looking,
rather cramped hand — began and ended
abruptly : —
'* My father tells me that my conduct
yesterday was ungrateful and unwomanly ;
for the ingratitude I ask your pardon — for
your exertion on my behalf I thank you,
and I hope you have not suffered from
BOND AND FREE. 193
that exertion. Of course you could not
know that I valued my pony's life to the
full as highly as my own ; no doubt you
acted with the best intentions.
*^ I suppose the death you saved me from
would have been terrible. I have not slept
for seeing and hearing those angry, hungry
waves. My poor Mountaineer ! Do you
blame me for thinking more of her fate
than of my own safety?
"We shall see you to-day. In the
meanwhile, I have said to my unknown
deliverer that I thank him. I wish that
the life he has saved were more valuable to
This was the whole of the note which,
many years afterwards, remained to bear
-strange witness to the singular commence-
ment of a singular intercourse. Why Wilfred
did not destroy that note he did not know ;
he did not keep the father's.
194 BOND AND FREE.
"If I had accepted her father's invita-
tion — which, by-the-by, she takes for granted
that I shall do — how would she have treated
me, I wonder ? Condescendingly, I sup-
pose ; she is evidently a haughty woman —
how different from anything Felicia can ever
become ! I should like to know what dis-
pleases her in her fate, just out of curiosity,
she is not a woman to inspire warmer
interest; at the same time, more especially
as she takes my coming for granted, I am
glad I have refused her father's invitation."
Had Wilfred wished to avail himself of
Mr. Narpenth's offer of hospitality, he could
hardly have done so — yesterday's saturation
with salt-water had not improved a rough
travelling suit, which, with the exception of
one much shabbier, constituted the whole of
Afraid that Mr. Narpenth's gratitude and
consciousness of obligation would not let
BOND AND FREE. 195
him rest content without making some
further friendly overtures, Wilfred felt that
the solitary charm of Abergwynn was gone :
he left it that day.
" Ach, was soil der Mensch verlangen ?
1st es besser ruMg bleiben ?
Klammernd f est sich anzuhangen ?
1st es besser sich zu treiben ? "
Eeturning to London in vigorous health,
Wilfred settled himself to work, having hired
a cheap lodging, one room at the top of a
tall house, in an even more plebeian quarter
than that he had before inhabited. At first
he was happy here, for he had plenty of
work to do, and abundant energy with
which to do it. While he laboured with
faith and hope his outward circumstances
affected him but little. Till his novel was
BOND AND FREE. 197
finished he had not much to live upon ; he
even found that dining at home was a too
expensive habit — sometimes he dined at a
cheap eating-house, sometimes he did not
dine at all. For a few months he was cer-
tainly happy ; it seemed to do him good to
have to fight with outward enemies — to
have to work to keep cold and hunger at
bay ; he was then in no temper, and had
no time, for indulgence in the morbid
miseries of imagination — for he worked ear-
nestly ; but the battle was long and hard,
and he grew weak and weary. When his
work was finished, fairly finished, and before
the public, he was in no mood to enjoy or
to value success, such as he achieved; he
had spent himself in the fight, without
caring for the result of victory — at least
without caring for such things as were
likely i' to be the result of victory. The
feather-weight of the paper crown won seemed
198 BOND AND FREE.
enough to crush him — the wreath of puny
nineteenth-century laurels was as a crown
The novel which had been so long on
hand, a volume of essays, and a small
volume of short poems, were all published
early in this autumn. They were all well
received, all proved more or less successful.
As his purse grew heavy, it seemed that
his heart grew heavy with it.
Sitting in his dingy upper chamber, weak-
ened in body and mind by privation and
overwork, he wept tears of anguished
and pitiable self-pity over the isolation
which made prosperity so utterly valueless.
What was success to him ? — a glaring
light thrown into the chambers of his soul,
to show him the ghastly dread inhabiting
there. So complete was his self-imposed
loneliness that he had not one friend to
rejoice with him — he did not receive one
BOND AND FREE. 199
congratulatory hand-shake which he could
believe was that of warm, disinterested
affection. Of the Landons he had seen
nothing since his return to London ; they
did not know where to find him. His
last letter to Herbert Southern remained
unanswered, for the simple reason that,
while he had told Herbert that he had
given up his former rooms, he had given
him no new address ; so he felt himself
cut off from the sympathy even of the
Beech Holmes circle — fancied that even
there, even by Felicia, he was by this
One sultry night, late in September,
Wilfred leant from his open window, and
watched a storm gathering over the city.
At the top and at the back of the lofty
house, his window commanded a wide ex-
tent of chimneys and of smoke-darkened sky,
The day had been one of stifling closeness ;
200 BOND AND FREE.
during it he had not had energy enough to
leave the house, but had merely lounged
away the hours, hoping that the evening
coolness would bring him relief.
Suddenly the wind, which preceded the
breaking of the storm, swept in and swept
round his room, scattering his papers.
This blast seemed to have a magical
effect on Wilfred ; it gave him energy
to long and to resolve — within five
minutes of its coming he had determined
to leave England next day.
When the storm broke, as it seemed,
right overhead, he did not heed and
hardly heard it — he was writing a farewell-
letter to Mrs. Southern, telling her of his
plans, of his sufferings, of his intense
weariness of life. To her he poured out
the garnered-up bitterness of his soul —
speaking of the mocking hoUowness of
success which there was nothing to endear
BOND AND FREE. 201
— of the well-nigh intolerable pressure and
burden of such a lonely existence as his.
He said that the only hope he was con-
scious of was a hope that he was still,
however faintly, remembered at Beech
Holmes ; and that the volumes which
would accompany his letter — such as they
were, he had poured his very life into
them, he said — and which he begged Mrs.
Southern to allow her daughter Felicia
to accept — might be read with some little
pleasure and interest there, and might
bear some slight testimony to the grati-
tude and affection with which the writer
recalled happy days spent both there and
in town with his kind friends, who were
his only friends.
Notices of Wilfred's books had been
read at Beech Holmes before the books
themselves arrived. The author had chosen
that the copies intended for Felicia should
202 BOND AND FREE.
be bound after a fancy of his own, and
this had occasioned some delay.
His letter, expressing, she thought, feel-
ings in such strong contrast with any he
ought to have entertained, was a shock
to Mrs. Southern; its morbid, thankless,
weakly miserable tone jarred on her
healthy mind. It was not, she said to
Felicia, his indifference to success that
pained her ; but that he showed himself un-
grateful to the Giver of it, by indulging
such feelings as those his letter expressed.
Poor Felicia felt rebuked, abashed : lis-
tening to her mother's condemnation, she
stooped over her newly-arrived treasures to
hide her burning cheeks and tearful eyes.
In her heart pity contended with admira-
tion—sorrow with triumph : her mother's
words seemed to her stern, yet an inward
consciousness of their partial truth humbled
BOND AND FREE. 203
Mrs. Southern continued : —
" I fear Wilfred Mason will, after all,
prove more a warning than an example
— a warning of the worthlessness and vanity
of all gifts to one not reconciled with God
and resigned to His will — instead of an
example of the noble use of noble gifts,
and of the power a courageous and God-
fearing man has over what people call
fate and circumstances. Instead of proving
that a man may become great and good
in spite of disadvantages of birth and parent-
age, he will, I fear, be another victim to
morbid, exaggerating apprehension of con-
ventional prejudice. This is what I fear
for him. He seems to me determined to
be miserable : there is something childish
in the way he harps upon his friendless-
ness, and yet neglects to make any exertion,
either to retain the friends he has, or to
make himself new ones."
204 BOND AND FREE.
Mrs. Southern sometimes talked till she
said rather more than she meant : this was
likely to be the case now. But meeting
a startled, imploring look from Felicia, who
understood little except that Wilfred was
blamed for not being happy, she added : —
*^Do not look so grieved, dear child. I
do not wish to be harsh — I do not mean
to say that no allowances ought to be made
for poor Wilfred, but ."
*^ Dear mamma," Felicia interposed, in
a soft, pleading, voice, ^'I think I should
be very, very unhappy if I had no mother,
no brother, no sisters — no one at all to love
me. I do not think anything could make
up to me for that — or that I could rejoice
over any good fortune, if there were no
one to rejoice with me. Then Wilfred says
that he is ill. If he has no one to talk
to, and is ill and unhappy, isn't it natural
that he should tell you about it ? Eead
BOND AND FREE. 205
his books, mamma dear ; I think you will
own he must have been brave and good
while he wrote them. Can people who
have no one to love them help being un-
happy sometimes ? I am sure I could not."
Felicia's eyes were full of tears — her
hands lingered caressingly on Wilfred's
^^ Part of my complaint against Wilfred
is that he doesn't seek to have people to
love him. But, Felicia, I hoped that my
dear little daughter felt it impossible to
be unhappy. Any one whose heart is with
God, and whose will is His will, should
feel it so."
'^ I do not seem to know anything
about being unhappy — I have never had
anything to try me ; but, mamma, if
sorrow were to come to me, ought it not
to be easier to me to feel rightly, than
to any one who had been less happy ?
206 BOND AND FREE.
Has not your love been a sort of proof
to me of God's love ? Yet, if I were
to lose you — oh, mamma! I cannot think
of that ! " Her eyes seemed to widen in
an effort to see the magnitude of such a
Mrs. Southern took Felicia into her arms,
and said, soothingly: —
"Perhaps I spoke a little hardly of
Wilfred — his letter disappointed me greatly;
he is so highly gifted — his nature has so
much that is truly beautiful in it — that I
grow angry and impatient with him for
being less than altogether noble."
A kiss closed the conversation.
Everybody in the house read Wilfred's
books before Felicia read them. They un-
derstood her so little as to wonder at
her want of eagerness. When free family
discussion was busy with their contents,
Felicia would slip quietly away.
BOND AND FREE. 207
At last, when the vohimes were all her
own, when everybody else had finished
reading and discussing them, she carried
them off to her own little room, and
lived in them there. Wilfred^s thoughts
became her thoughts. Every word of his
had a peculiar sacredness for her. Of his
poems, there were some she was for ever
saying over to herself She accepted all
he wrote : some things she liked better
than others, but she never thought of
judging or comparing; and she did not
love to listen when others did this — what
she did not understand she was content to
take on faith.
Mrs. Southern had been the first to
speak in admiration of Wilfred's books —
to own that there was hardly a touch of
bitterness or morbidness in them — -that the
sentiments were noble, the language elo-
quent, the style vigorous. Into those
208 BOND AND FREE.
books he had poured the health and
strength gathered from Welsh sea-breezes,
and from the ah^ of Welsh mountains — had
poured all out with spendthrift haste, and
had left himself completely bankrupt.
" 'Twere better not to breathe or speak,
Than cry for strength, remaining weak,
And seem to find, but still to seek.
Moreover, but to seem to find
Asks what thou lackest — thought resign'd,
A healthy frame, a quiet mind."
Wilfred carried a heavy weariness —
very little expectation of enjoyment, or
capacity for it, abroad with him. He
spent the winter in Italy ; and from thence
— because utter idleness was burdensome —
he sent home various stories, sketches, and
poems to the editor of the miscellany in
which his first published tale had appeared.
These things were almost all languidly
VOL. I. P
210 BOND AND FREE.
imagined and listlessly executed ; there was
no freshness or foreignness of atmosphere
about them ; they were developments of
ideas which had lain in his brain before
he left London, feeble and half-stifled de-
velopments — for his mind, unconsciously to
himself, was ever receiving new impres-
sions, and resented the forced labour of
dealing with old things.
He was disappointed by what he inter-
preted as the want of suggestiveness of
his life. Nothing seemed to him new or
unfamiliar ; it was as if in a dream he
were revisiting the scenes of some former
existence, conscious that it was only in a
dream, and yet unable to dissipate the
dream-haze and wake to realities.
He lingered abroad till — after a winter
and summer had been spent in Italy,
Switzerland, and Germany — the lowness of
his funds warned him that it would be
BOND AND FREE. 211
prudent to turn homewards; as anything
like steady application or regular work
seemed impossible among unfamiliar scenes.
October found him basking in the sun-
shine on the deck of a Rhine steamboat;
watching the shifting panorama of wooded
or vine-clad, castle-crowned heights, and
listening to the babble of German conver-
sation. It happened, the season being so
far advanced, that he was the only Eng-
lishman on board.
The alternations between the expression
of high-flown sentiments — extravagant pro-
fessions of love for their father-land, ex-
travagant praises of the beauty of the
glorious Ehine — and calls for butter-brods,
coffee, wine, beer, fruit, and sausage-
sandwiches, half amused, and half disgusted
the fastidious Englishman : the smile on
his lips was ertainly not a particularly
212 BOND AND FREE.
At this period Wilfred greatly resembled
Schiller, as we know him through Goethe's
description of him. He was proud-looking
in form, mien, and carriage ; only his eyes
were soft — they were wonderfully soft :
sometimes they seemed to be merely, with
the most absolute humility, seeking for
love ; mourning its want, or its incom-
At one of the prettiest spots on the
river, the steamer had stopped to take in
three persons who were awaiting it in a
little boat. Wilfred, happening to stand
near the ladder, naturally extended his
hand to assist these passengers — a lady, a
gentleman, and the lady's maid, to ascend it.
The lady made use of the proffered
hand ; she was passing on with a me-
chanical '^Ich danke sehr/' while her maid
rewarded the stranger's politeness by a be-
witching smile, when the gentleman, who
BOND AND FREE. 213
came last, looking full at Wilfred, uttered
an exclamation which made her turn.
Meeting her eyes, Wilfred at once recog-
nized her; immediately recalled how, when,
and where they had met before : but he
himself — bronzed, disguised by a foreign-
looking growth of hair, and dressed well
and suitably — was not immediately to be
recognized by a person who had seen
him but once, and had then hardly taken
the trouble to look at him.
^' Eleanour ! You have not forgotten your
narrow escape at Abergwynn ! This is the
gentleman who saved your life there."
Miss Narpenth made full use of her
large eyes before she spoke. At first she
seemed to doubt the truth of her father's
" Saved my life, and then ran away
from our troublesome gratitude : T remem-
ber," she said. " I have never been able to
214 BOND AND FREE.
get such another pony as my poor Moun-
taineer ! '*
"Not another who would peril your life
by dashing into the sea when frightened !
You are certainly to be condoled with ! "
Miss Narpenth coloured slightly — per-
haps she had associations with that period
which made her colour readily; and the
expression of Wilfred's face was unpleasantly
sarcastic. She went on to say —
" You did not allow me the opportunity
of personally expressing my gratitude to
you in Wales. I offer you my hand now,
Mr. . I do not think we ever knew
It was Wilfred's turn to blush; he did
so, through his bronzed hue, as he an-
swered, "The name of Mason must supply
the blank Miss Narpenth leaves "
Many years as he had borne this name,
he still, in some moods, felt a pang of
BOND AND FREE. 215
shame when he gave it as his to any
stranger ; knowing that his only right to
it was that of possessing no other. He
bowed somewhat low over the offered hand,
and his blush passed unnoticed.
When Miss Narpenth, assisted by her
maid, had settled herself in a comfortable
position — there had been a grand rising of
a group of German students to make way
for the handsome and distinguished-looking
Englishwoman — Wilfred, who stood at a little
distance, talking to her father, or rather,
being talked to by him, looked at her with
Miss Narpenth was a fair brunette, if
that term be allowable. In her eyes, hair,
and complexion there was a rich golden
glow ; the warmer and more vivid the light,
the more forcibly this was brought out ; it
was a tone resembling that given to every-
thing by the sunshine of late afternoon in
216 BOND AND FREE.
late August. Exposure to a summer's air
and sun had now greatly heightened the
brilliancy of this effect. At the same time,
as Wilfred had seen, Miss Narpenth's was
one of the faces from which emotion can
blot out all life, colour, and beauty. The
white, still face he remembered was not to
be recognized as the same face he looked %
at now ; save by the eyes, which were sin-
gular : large, full without being prominent,
and glowing, they suggested the idea of slum-
bering fires — of a nature in which it would
be far easier to kindle than to subdue re-
As if to favour Wilfred's scrutiny, of
which she seemed either unconscious or
perfectly careless, Miss Narpenth laid aside
her hat for a few moments — exposing thick,
close coils of hair, not silky nor soft, and
yet not coarse, but having an almost me-
tallic strength and brightness ; in colour.
BOND AND FREE. 217
dark, yet with a strong inclination to tawny
auburn. The forehead, on which this hair
grew rather low, was smooth, white, and
well-expanded ; but with brows of too heavy
an arch, too nearly meeting over a nose,
delicately formed, small and straight, the
sensitive nostril of which seemed ready to
express any passing emotion ; the mouth
was in keeping with the heavy brows, too
full-lipped and too large ; but the lips were
soft and rosy, and their rare smile disclosed
teeth dazzlingly white and perfectly formed.
In spite of air and sunshine, the determined-
looking chin, the blue-veined temples and the
rather long throat, were of exquisite creamy,
not snowy, fairness. Altogether, it was a
perplexing face, with too many charms to be
a very safe study. Apt to look sullen in
repose, always ready to express haughty
discontent, it could, nevertheless, arm itself
with every fascination of beauty and in-
218 BOND AND FREE.
tellect ; lighting up with flattering interest,
or softening to the expression of tender-
ness, admiration, and love. It was a face
that at its worst might look fiendish, at its
best could never look angelic — a face that
was handsome always, now and then beau-
tiful ; but not with such beauty as an
inspired painter would dream of giving to
a saint or a Madonna.
Miss Narpenth was rather tall, almost as
tall as Wilfred; but when she did not re-
member to be listless, the graceful activity
of her movements testified to a harmony of
proportion that prevented her being looked
upon as either tall or short. Her dress
had the grace of appropriateness, and was
characterized by a neatness and complete-
ness which placed it in strong contrast with
that of most of the German women on board
— many of whom resembled bundles of hete-
rogeneous garments, surmounted by human
BOND AND FREE. 219
heads ; rather than properly built, merely
From the moment she stepped on deck,
Miss Narpenth was the cynosure of many
eyes ; happening to drop a book of poems
which she had with her, several hands were
stretched out towards it. A tall, fair-
haired, and somewhat wild-eyed young
man, who was fortunate enough to secure
it, presented it to her with an air of most
profound respect; and then, on the strength
of this introduction, tried to draw her into
conversation. Poetry — English and German
— was the subject he started. He did not
find it difficult to interest Miss Narpenth —
she was perfectly at home in German litera-
ture ; while he himself was tolerably versed
in that of England. He seemed to throw
his whole heart and soul into the subject —
quoting Goethe, Schiller, Uhland, Euckert,
Geibel, and Chamisso freely and firily; and
220 BOND AND FREE,
wounding himself the while, as he believed
irrecoverably, against the fine eyes, the
brilliant smile, the varying colour and ex-
pression of the '^ wunderschone, talentvolle
A blue-eyed Clarchen, to whom he had
previously devoted himself, watched him
with mild despair in her heart, and inno-
cent tears in her wide eyes. Wilfred,
catching snatches of the conversation as he
paced the deck with Mr. Narpenth, was
astonished at the animation and freedom of
the dialogue carried on with a stranger ;
and, while he admired Miss Narpenth's clever
talk, and perfectly fluent and correct German,
mentally accused her of a want of womanly
reticence ; a want of that self-restraint which
exercises a restraining power over others.
When a bell rang, signifying that the mid-
day table-d'hote awaited the passengers, the
poetical young German was not behind his
BOND AND FREE. 221
countrymen in obeying the summons. The
three English travellers were the last to
enter the saloon, and Miss Narpenth was
placed between Wilfred and her father.
Amused at the fiercely-sentimental glances
directed towards his neighbour from the far
end of the table, Wilfred commented upon
them to her ; adding, dryly, that she had
seemed to find the young German
"He is clever — rather a remarkable
young man, I should think," Miss Narpenth
answered. Then she said : —
" Your tone makes me imagine that you
find in that fact, of my having been
interested by a stranger, something not in
accordance with your notions of pro-
priety. Is it so?''
" I should not presume to condemn any-
thing in Miss Narpenth, or to express a
doubt of the propriety of her conduct."
222 BOND AND FREE.
"You don't approve of a lady's allowing
herself to be drawn into conversation by a
young man to whom she has not been
' introduced/ perhaps ? ''
Wilfred made no answer to these scorn-
fully uttered words ; and his companion
asked, in the same tone —
" Do you find life so very amusing that
you can afford to throw away any chance
of being entertained ? "
"Has not Mife ' yet shown Miss Nar-
penth a fairer side than that which it
seemed to have presented to her when I
saw her first ? "
Miss Narpenth's painfully vivid blush made
Wilfred feel that his question had been indis-
creet — perhaps cruelly so. He did not ask
pardon in so many words, but he bestowed
one of the humblest glances of his soft
eyes upon his neighbour. Her eyes just
met it, and then drooped.
BOND AND FREE. 223
There was a brief silence. Miss Narpenth
broke it by saying, in a different tone
from that in which she had before spoken —
'* I have one excuse to offer for hav-
ing allowed myself to be interested in
my conversation with a young man to
whom I have not been introduced ; which
is, that he spoke with enthusiasm of a book
by an author whose writings interest me
extremely. I was surprised that a foreigner
should have met with it, but my friend
says that he is but lately returned from
London. Perhaps you do not read fiction ? "
" Have you seen a novel called ' Endur-
ance and Resistance ? ' Its author has
written a great deal in one of the first
periodicals. He has also publislied a
volume of short poems : I have them with
me, and I shall be happy to lend the book
to you if you do not know it already."
224 BOND AND FREE.
"I know the novel and the poems.
Now, do you really so greatly admire that
Wilfred looked into Miss Narpenth's eyes
with a well-assumed expression of cold
"I do! — though you ask in quite an
intimidating way. I think it most power-
fully written, and its truth comes home to
me in so many ways. I have a strong
interest in all the author of that book
writes, and a strong wish to know him per-
sonally; I have never felt the same interest
in any other living writer. But I do think
that his novels and tales have one great
defect — everything in them about love, and
much in them about women, is so coldly
ideal; the heroines do not in the least
interest me — they are angels, and not
" The defect you mention is a great one."
BOND AND FREE. 225
" Do you agree with me that it exists ? "
'*No doubt you are right. I am in-
clined to think highly of your powers of
*^ What an unsatisfactory person you are !
I cannot tell whether you are laughing at
me or whether you are serious. Do you
know anything about the writer ? He seems
to be a mysterious person. I have so much
wished to see him, or even to hear about
him, and I have not been able to do either.
Do you know him ? "
*^ No doubt he is, like other authors, to
be heard of at his publisher's."
''Do you know him?" persisted Miss
** Intimately,'' Wilfred answered — his eyes
bent on his plate as he spoke.
" Pray tell me all you know of him ! "
"Kather a difficult task!" Lifting his
glance to Miss Narpenth's, Wilfred was
VOL. I. Q
226 BOND AND FREE.
dangerously assailed by the sweet flattery
of her genuinely eager interest.
" What a frigid, sententious person you
are !" she said. " It is evident my hero is
no hero for you : perhaps he is a rival of
yours ; or "
She stopped suddenly — Wilfred looked up
to ascertain the cause; again their eyes
met; his shrank from the contact of hers,
and so betrayed him. She blushed very
There was an awkward silence. Miss
Narpenth spoke first, quite softly and
"If I have been rudely inquisitive, and
have discovered what you wished to con-
ceal, I beg your pardon. Have I dis-
covered what you really desired should
be a secret ? Are you displeased with
me ? " The last question was asked in quite
a humble tone of deprecation.
BOND AND FREE. 227
Wilfred felt it incumbent on him to try
and put Miss Narpenth at her ease. He
could not help feeling kindly towards one
who had expressed so much interest in
him, and so much admiration for his pro-
ductions. Her face now, softened to hu-
mility and sweetness, for the first time
struck him as beautiful ; and her manner
was pleasing, even fascinating, now that
it was stripped of its assumed air of easy
indifierence, and shadowed by that rever-
ence which women are ' so apt to entertain
for men gifted with literary power; while
they so often withhold it from others who
have more worthy and solid claims upon
After watching Wilfred and Miss Nar-
penth for some time during the conversa-
tion, apparently of great mutual interest,
which ensued, the young German presently
rose abruptly and stormed from the saloon.
228 BOND AND FREE.
He was by-and-by seen tearing up and
down the deck, smoking furiously, and
staring wildly heavenwards. The fair Eng-
lishwoman, however, had no more attention
to bestow on him ; and when he was at last
convinced of this he returned to his former
allegiance to the clear-eyed and easily-for-
When evening came on Mr. Narpenth took
refuge below early : but Miss Narpenth and
"Wilfred paced the deck slowly to and
fro — sometimes talking, but often pausing
to lean over the side and note the calm
beauty of the evening and the scene —
long after daylight had quite departed.
Wilfred and the Narpenths took up their
quarters at the same hotel that night :
Wilfred woke next morning with a new
feeling — with a sense of having something
to look forward to ; of having some fresh
interest in life; of knowing that there was
BOND AND FREE, 229
some one near who took an interest in him.
Miss Narpenth was gracious and gentle as
on the previous evening — though he had
fancied that her softened mood would be
but of short duration. When he found
that the Narpenths' route could not be
his — as they designed spending some weeks
in Paris, and he was obliged to hasten
to London — he was greatly disappointed ;
and yet he had a dim consciousness that
it was best. So, with the blank feeling
of a pleasure lost, came also a feeling of
After a day or two spent together they
"We shall be in England in six weeks
from this time," Mr. Narpenth said : "I
have written my full address in town on
this card ; you will hear of me there —
even if we should be at Thorndon House.
You say that you have no address to
230 BOND AND FREE.
give me, so you must visit us on our
return. In six weeks, remember."
" Unless you promise to do so, Mr.
Mason, I have a feeling that we shall
see nothing of you — that you disappear
and reappear at pleasure ; that we may
never be able to hunt you out. I think
I have a claim upon you : you saved my
life, and I think you ought to do some-
thing towards rendering it ." She
paused for a second or two, and then
" endurable '' was the word she chose to
use. She spoke with assumed lightness,
but there was repressed earnestness in her
" I shall eagerly desire to avail myself of
Mr. Narpenth's kindness."
Wilfred spoke what he felt at the time ;
though his after-conduct gave the lie to
what he said. Those words, his parting
" auf wiedersehen," and the glance accom-
panying both, occupied Miss Narpenth a
BOND AND FREE. 231
good deal more than a few days since
she would have believed it possible any-
such words or glances could.
"A young man of singularly pleasing
address, when he throws off his reserve ! ^'
was Mr. Xarpenth's comment on Wilfred.
His daughter did not contradict him.
" I know I was in a very desperate and
cynical mood when I saw Mr. Mason before/'
she mused ; ** still I wonder he did not even
then make some slight impression upon me.
What singularly powerful eyes he has ! They
are very peculiar in expression, seeming to
contradict all the rest of his face; very
peculiar in colour, too, so that when he
lifts them up, it is quite a surprise to
see that softly dark violet, where one
expected to see black or brown ; and yet,
peculiar as they are, I think — I fancy — that
they remind me of some other pair of
eyes — though whose I cannot tell.'^
Leaning back luxuriously in the corner
232 BOND AND FREE.
of a railway-carriage, Eleanour Narpenth
thought a long while about these singu-
larly beautiful eyes.
" Papa ! did you say that Mrs. Lister
was to meet us in Paris on our arrival?"
she abruptly asked of her father, who sat
opposite, busy with the paper. j
"Mrs. Lister! Yes, in Paris, on our
arrival. I hope you will suit each othei,"
he added, letting the paper drop upon Ms
knees ; " you say you used to like her. I
thought myself that there was something a
little odd about her. She put several ques-
tions to me, about different people, whi^h
gave me the idea that she was trying to
find out something about some person after
whom she did not choose to ask directly ;
but when I asked if she had any English
friends, thinking I should like to obtain
more information about her, she replied
haughtily that she had lived so long abroad
BOND AND FREE. 233
that I must engage her only on the recom-
mendation of her foreign friends, or not at
all. She had previously admitted that my
name was not unknown to her before she
knew you. When or how she became
acquainted with it I did not discover ; but
she was evidently rather anxious that I
should engage her. As I said before, I hope
you will suit each other."
His daughter appearing to take but slight
and languid interest in the matter, Mr.
Narpenth resumed his paper, and dismissed
Mrs. Lister from his mind.
Return to one's home and country may
be very delightful when one has a home
and friends to welcome that return ; but
for Wilfred returning to London, after a
year's absence, to be welcomed by nothing
warmer or more cheering than a London
fog, was a dismal afiair.
234 BOND AND FREE.
On his arrival in town, he found all MSS.
he had forwarded from abroad awaiting
him at the office of the journal to which
they had been sent — without exception,
condition, or explanation, they were declined
by the editor.
Having looked them through, the author
straightway justified the editor's decision by
burning them every one.
"I have had my day — I have worn my-
self out, or I never could have penned such
feeble, worthless, mawkish stuff," was his
comment, as he did so. '^ I suppose I have
used up what good stuff there was in
me,'' he added; "if so, what remains for
me to do?"
How he answered this question, how he
dragged through that winter, it is not
easy to say, nor pleasant to think.
When the time came at which Mr.
Narpenth had assured Wilfred that he
BOND AND FREE. 235
should be again in town, the fickle and
careless Wilfred had lost the card on
which Mr. Narpenth had written his ad-
dress ; and had also utterly lost any incli-
nation to follow up the acquaintance.
"It is all very well to be admired
and flattered by a clever and beautiful
woman, like Eleanour Narpenth," he ad-
mitted to himself, "but I have no fancy
for being an object of her pity or pa-
tronage. I can imagine that there are
women whose loving pity, poured into the
wounds of a man's pride and ambition,
may act as healing balm ; but I am sure
that Miss Narpenth is not one of these:
her compassion would be, not oil upon
troubled waters, but oil added to devour-
ing flames. If I am ever again prosper-
ous, I may then, perhaps, wish to seek
her out, and further sun myself in the
light of those really glorious eyes — but,
236 BOND AND FREE.
for the present, I would rather that they
did not shine upon me."
Perhaps this winter was the most mise-
rable winter Wilfred ever spent; not that
he sujffered from cold or hunger, or any
outward privation — he did not.
Writing down to the level of unin-
structed minds, and seeking to gratify un-
cultivated and unrefined tastes — writing to
order for an inferior class of publications,
under a strict promise of secrecy, which
he knew to be worth little — he met with
a success which he felt, and rightly felt,
to be deeply humiliating.
At this time he was conscious of a
gradual, but sure, deterioration of his
whole nature. He was humbled in his
own eyes; and this humbling was of a de-
grading, embittering kind. It made him
moody and resentful; in time it might
BOND AND FREE. 237
make him coarse and callous. It seemed
to him that it was now his very self
that dragged him down, and not anything
in his outward circumstances. Believing
that he no longer believed in the possi-
bility of happiness high and holy as he
had dreamt of — or in the possibility of
leading a high and holy ideal life with-
out happiness — and never having realized
the other possibility, that a life of exalted
endurance and untiring effort may make
its own happiness within itself, or find it
in the happiness of others — he now aban-
doned himself to that sceptical indifference
which urges its victim to seize what plea-
sure life offers, and not to pry too closely
into its nature — to live as the world lives,
and not set up an ideal standard,
the straining to attain to which robs
a man^s days of savour, his nights of
rest, turns his hair grey before its time,
238 BOND AND FREE.
and makes existence a burden and a weari-
The devil, however, is not all-wise; for
some souls he does not choose the right
bait — some natures have not the aptitude for
finding delight in the low pleasures of sin
and sense — for finding any pleasure, delight,
love, or rest, save in things so high that
they do not hope ever to attain unto
Happy are perhaps those unhappy ones
who are ever driven on by the inward im-
pulse ; who find no rest, no love, delight,
nor pleasure on those soft, sunny, lower
levels where they would fain lie down and
take their ease ; but, though the flesh is
weak, are compelled, by the merciless, un-
resting spirit, to toil onwards towards the
difficult hills, whose summits look cold,
barren, and cheerless — on whose slopes the
dear, cheery work-a-day sun does not
BOND AND FREE. 239
appear to shine, and in whose nooks and
hollows no happy hearth-fires glow.
Was Wilfred one of these unhappy happy
" A spot of dull stagnation witliout light
Or power of movement, seem'd my soul
'Mid onward sloping motions infinite
Making for one sure goal."
^* Dass ich werden diirfte wie dieser Tage-
lohner einer ! '^ was the exclamation which
broke from Wilfred, as he stood in the
middle of a lonely country road; looking
with an air half-intent, half-abstracted, at
some objects by its side. These objects
were a heap of half broken-up stones, on
which lay a pick-axe and a labourer's
jacket. He had maintained his contem-
plative attitude for a considerable time.
BOND AND FREE. 241
After a glance to the right and left
— showing him the unvaried solitari-
ness of the white road which he could
see stretching away far into the distance
on either hand — he took off his coat and
hat, placed them by the labourer's
jacket, took up the pick-axe, and began
to work. His tool invariably fell wide of
the mark, and fragments of stone flew
up into his face ; but he continued to
work with unflagging energy, till he in-
flicted a somewhat severe blow upon his
leg. Then, the pick-axe still in his hand,
he leant back among the brambles growing
against a low wall of loose stones.
"Not even fit for this," he said,
When the first sickening pain had
passed off, however, he fell to work
again. Finding himself rather less awk-
ward now, he grew far too eager over
VOL. I. R
242 BOND AND FREE.
his occupation to hear the approach of
an easy-rolling carriage. As it passed
between him and the sunshine he invo-
luntarily looked up ; it contained two
ladies — they both wore veils ; but, when
one of them leant forward and bowed to
Wilfred, through their light lacy screen,
he believed that he recognized the eyes
of Eleanour Narpenth.
The carriage had passed before he had
in any way returned the lady's saluta-
tion ; Miss Narpenth having checked a
momentary impulse to stop it, as she
remembered that in the presence of the
coachman and footmen it would not be
quite pleasant to enter into familiar con-
versation with a man whom they had seen
breaking stones on the road.
During the greater part of her drive
Miss Narpenth meditated uneasily on the
strangeness of this encounter; she speculated
BOND AND FREE. 243
whether Wilfred could possibly, by any
chance or change of fortune, be "on the
roads " professionally : this hypothesis being
too disagreeable to be entertained, she de-
cided to regard what she had seen as a
mere freak of eccentric genius.
Meanwhile Wilfred resumed his hat and
coat, and limped from the spot ; when
Miss Narpenth repassed it about an hour
afterwards she saw the pick-axe wielded
by its real owner.
Sickness and consequent poverty had
driven Wilfred from London itself; but he
felt obliged to remain near it. He would
not have chosen the neighbourhood of
Thorndon as a retreat, had he known that
the Narpenths had a house there. Yet it
had been Mr. Narpenth's having once
mentioned Thorndon House (as Wilfred now
remembered his having done) which had
given him that feeling of pleasant and
244 BOND AND FREE.
puzzling familiarity with the name of the
village that had attracted him to it.
It was not, therefore, altogether chance,
though it was further still from being
choice, that had led Wilfred into Miss
Feeling himself thoroughly unprosperous —
beginning to believe himself to be that most
miserable of human beings, one who has
mistaken his vocation — fancying now that
he had never possessed genius, or any-
thing more than quite ordinary talent,
and that his only inspiration had been his
misery, and that fire and energy of youth
which was already burnt out — he had
come to Thorndon that he might breathe
free, fresh air, while he resolved on his
The time was indeed come when he
envied the labourer on the roads his
definite day's work. Eesolved to break
BOND AND FREE. 245
free from the debasing slavery into which
he had sold himself, and which he now
loathed, he believed that he was prepared
to subsist on dry bread, and to pass his
nights without shelter, rather than return
to it. As yet, however, he was not
obliged to test his resolution so severely ;
he carried a small portion of the spoils
of the Egyptian taskmasters into his free
On this autumn afternoon Wilfred
walked towards the cottage where he
lodged with an irritated consciousness of
the absurdity of the position in which
Miss Narpenth had surprised him ; yet
neither this unpleasant consciousness, nor
his former distaste to being an object of
her pity, was the chief reason which 'made
him contemplate a flight from her neigh-
bourhood : he felt both that at this turn
in his life Miss Narpenth's influence would
246 BOND AND FREE.
be a baneful one, and that she was a
woman who could not remain without
influence over those with whom she came
in contact. Wilfred was indolent, however;
he contented himself with resolving to
avoid the high-road, where he had been
seen by Miss Narpenth ; he consoled him-
self with the idea that the humbleness of
his retreat — a common labourer's dwelling
— ensured him against discovery — how
should she even know that he was living
at or near Thorndon ?
But Miss Narpenth was not to be
easily eluded : enquiries set on foot in the
village soon made her acquainted with the
fact that a strange gentleman had for
some time lodged at the cottage of a
Within two days of the encounter on
the road Wilfred received an invitation to
dine at Thorndon House — an invitation so
BOND AND FREE. 247
cleverly worded that his best feelings
seemed to make it impossible for him to
refuse it ; besides which, he thought that
there would be something ignominious and
cowardly in doing so. He could leave
Thorndon shortly after having availed him-
self of this one invitation, without there
being anything particularly ungracious in
" Where is Thorndon House ? " he enquired
of the woman of the cottage.
" Over yon, sir ; you may see the
smoke through the trees. It's Squire Nar-
penth's ; Tve heard tell he's got as big
a house in London, and another in
Wales — ^he's a banker, and main rich, I
fancy ! "
So the great house among the trees —
from which he had often watched the
up-curling smoke as he lounged away his
weary days on the low-wooded hill near
248 BOND AND FREE.
the cottage — was the dwelling of Eleanour
A review of his wardrobe showed Wil-
fred that he had clothes in which he
should be quite presentable ; more espe-
cially as he knew that any shortcomings
from the standard of present fashion would
be regarded by Miss Narpenth, as no doubt
the stone-breaking had been regarded —
merely as an outbreak of the " eccentricity
" Genius ! " Wilfred repeated, as he sat
in his miserable little room, resting his head
on his hands, and with his eyes fixed on
Miss Narpenth's note. " Genius ! — she be-
lieves that I have it, and I dreamt so
once. How far off those days of delirious
delight and illusion are ! I am still a young
man, not thirty yet, and I seem to have
had my day — to have lived my life. How
must I fill up the years to come ? How do
BOND AND FREE. 249
men who never had the life I have lost, fill
up their years — years made up of such a
weary multitude of days ? Most men have two
lives — one the sweetener of the other : two
lives, one the outward bread-winning life, the
other the sacred family life — the life in others
dearer than themselves — their wives and chil-
dren. If it might ever be thus with me ! I
could, I think, be very happy doing very
humble work, if — ^"
Here thought grew very vague ; but pre-
sently he continued: —
'' Will the man whose life stands between
me and the possibility of such happiness
live till the knowledge his death gives me
is valueless? Yet what can that knowledge
profit me ? He said, ^ it was not well that
you should be branded with your father's
name/ Branded! Perhaps it is well that
bitter word escaped him ; or I might have been
tempted to pray for his death. No doubt
250 BOND AND FREE.
the bitter word was a just word — he hated
my father, but he never lied. Well ! I
must just live on with what patience I
may. Life may be long, but each day
shortens it. Each night that falls blots out
something from the weary sum of time.
Happiness, that dream and desire of my
youth, flies from me further and further,
and I lose even my visionary belief in
her; and yet," he added, raising his head,
and sudden fire flashing through the haze
of his languid eyes, " I shall surely know
her before I die."
Straying out into the sun presently,
his craving for companionship led him to
the hedges, where the village children were
picking blackberries : he passed an hour
or two in helping them, hooking down the
branches above their reach, and greatly
aiding to fill their baskets. When a little
girl belonging to a neighbouring cottage
BOND AND FREE. 251
got badly scratched, and had to be carried
home to her mother, Wilfred undertook the
charge of her ; then, finding it was late
enough to begin preparing for his visit to
Thorndon House, he did not return to the
To his own surprise, he found that he
anticipated pleasure from his visit: he was
tired of himself; tired of his rough lodging
and coarse fare — tired of seeing only homely
faces, and of hearing only homely speech.
He was inclined to seize any kind and degree
of pleasure that offered ; without too curiously
examining whether it appealed to sense or
Thorndon House was a large, square,
ordinary-looking British mansion ; sur-
rounded by smooth lawns, trim shrub-
beries, well-kept carriage-drives, and well-
gravelled paths — all enclosed within a high
wall, and sheltered at the back by some
252 BOND AND FREE.
finely-grown elms. It was furnished with
admirably-stocked greenhouses and hot-
houses ; the flower-beds glowed with au-
tumn flowers ; everything had a modern,
highly-preserved, prosperous look. Nothing
he saw could have reminded Wilfred of
Beech Holmes ; it could only have been the
force of contrast that sent his thoughts to
that picturesquely-beautiful and ruinous
Long afterwards, to recall his feelings as
he ascended the steps and waited at the hall
door of Thorndon House that day — to recall
the impressions he then received from un-
familiar things which were destined to become
so familiar — was like recalling a dream.
Wilfred was ushered into a large and
empty drawing-room ; facing south-west it
was full of warmth, colour, light, and
fragrance : flowers, pictures, statuettes,
richly -bound books and richly-coloured dra-
BOND AND FREE. 253
peries seemed to blend into a general at-
mosphere of subdued beauty — at least so
it struck one much accustomed to white-
washed walls, or to the various ugliness
and dinginess of cheap lodgings.
His soft exclamation ^^ Ah ! " was a long
drawn breath of pleasure, as he looked
round the apartment, inhaled the perfumed
air, felt the thick soft carpet beneath his
feet, and watched the late sunlight stream-
One of the windows stood open ; near it
was a small inlaid table, before which was
placed an easy chair ; on the table was a
piece of delicate embroidery, with a needle
in it, as if it had been just thrown
down ; also a writing-case, a vase of
splendid roses, and one or two books.
Wilfred approached this table reverently —
to recoil as from a snake among flowers,
on finding that an open volume, half-con-
254 BOND AND FREE.
cealed by the work lying on it, was a
copy of his poems — the same that Miss
Narpenth had had with her abroad.
'* A trap laid for an author's vanity —
she must be tired of them by this time ! "
Muttering this to himself he smiled con-
Miss Narpenth entering at this moment,
Wilfred met her with a manner of cold and
guarded reserve. She noticed this; after
her first frank greeting she coloured,
glanced inquiringly at his grave face, and
then her manner, too, became somewhat
As she had appeared on first coming
into the room, a bright smile of pleasure
and welcome on her lips and in her eyes,
Wilfred had thought her even more strik-
ingly handsome than he remembered to
have thought her before. Dressed to
perfection — as regarded taste and fashion,
BOND AND FREE. 255
though perhaps too richly for the occasion
— no doubt she impressed him the more
from the fact that his eyes had starved
upon rustic awkwardness and coarseness
long enough to have an unnaturally keen
appetite for cultivated grace and beauty.
Miss Narpenth, too, seemed in such per-
fect harmony with everything surrounding
her, that it appeared as if the " central
idea" of all this luxury must have been
wanting before she came into the room.
When the first greetings were over,
and Wilfred and his hostess were both
seated, they felt at a loss to know what
to say : remarks about the weather and
the neighbourhood sounded absurd to Elea-
nour, when there were so many subjects
of interest on which she longed to question
Wilfred broke a short silence by say-
256 BOND AND FREE.
" Till you drove past me the other day,
and did me the honour of bowing to me,
I did not know that you lived in this
place ; though afterwards I remembered that
I might have known it. I had been
puzzled to understand what association
could make the name of Thorndon familiar
^* Perhaps you owe my greeting entirely
to my surprise. I think it would only
have been properly dignified if I had
affected to have forgotten a gentleman
who has shown so very little anxiety to
" Believe me, that when we parted at
Cologne I had every intention of availing
myself of your father's kind hospitality —
every desire to do so. On my return to
town, unforeseen circumstances arose which
interfered with the fulfilment of this intention.
The loss has so evidently been entirely my
BOND AND FREE. 257
own, and the obstacles to the renewal of
a pleasant intercourse were of so distaste-
ful a kind, that I feel more inclined to
claim Miss Narpenth's commiseration than
to solicit forgiveness by making apologies
which imply a consciousness of wilful
transgression — of having sinned against
her, instead of having only mortified my-
The icy composure of Wilfred's manner
as he made this speech repressed any ex-
pression of that commiseration for which
it pretended to call. Miss Narpenth felt
wonderfully little at her ease : it was a
relief to her when her father arrived —
rather late, as he explained, because, in
obedience to Eleanour's instructions, he had
come round by Wilfred's quarters ; to as-
certain if he had remembered his engage-
ment at Thorndon House— ^^ students and
authors being proverbially forgetful of such
VOL. I. S
258 BOND AND FREE.
sublunary matters as dinner engagements."
After having welcomed his guest very
cordially, Mr. Narpenth turned to the
table by the window. Not seeing anyone
there, he asked : —
" Where is Mrs. Lister ? "
" I had a message from her while I
was dressing to say that she begged to
be excused from appearing at the dinner-
table ; as she was suffering from severe
" Has she had it all day, do you sup-
pose ? "
" She appeared as well as usual at
lunch-time. It seems almost as if Mr.
Mason had been guilty of producing her head-
ache. I happened to bring your poems
downstairs this afternoon," Miss Narpenth
added, turning to Wilfred ; " when I
left the room, Mrs. Lister, who had not
seen them before, was reading them very
BOND AND FREE. 259
intently. She had not then complained of
Dinner was announced as ready. Wil-
fred, glad to exonerate Eleanour from the
sin of having left, that book open, offered
her his arm with a more friendly expres-
sion than he had yet shown her. After
some slight speculation in his own mind,
he decided rightly that this Mrs. Lister
must be Miss Narpenth's duenna, or dame-
Accustomed for sometime to partake with
what appetite he might of clumsily-prepared
and roughly-served food, Mr. Narpenth's
dining-room and dining-table appointments
struck Wilfred as epicurean in their refined
luxury and elegance.
The twilight was shut out by crimson
curtains ; the small oval dining-table, drawn
near a clear-burning fire, but protected from
it by a screen of plate-glass, had nothing on
260 BOND AND FREE.
it but pleasantly-shaded lights, glass, plate,
china, and a large vase of flowers ; the
dishes were carved at the sideboard, and
handed round by a noiseless footman, as-
sisted by a good-looking maid-servant. The
host being free from cares of carving, and
the hostess from anxiety as to the sym-
metrical arrangement of the dishes, con-
versation flowed on evenly and pleasantly.
To a question from Wilfred as to whether
they had been abroad this year, Mr. Nar-
penth answered: —
" Eleanour did not care to go away
from Thorndon ; she said she was tired of
travelling and tired of ' furrin parts,' and
that she should like to try a summer and
autumn spent quietly in the country."
"And have you enjoyed the change ?
Has the experiment proved a successful
one ? " Wilfred asked Miss Narpenth.
" During the last six months I have
BOND AND FREE. 261
perhaps yawned more than in all my life
before : that is answer sufficient, I think."
" My daughter is a spoilt child, and very
hard to please ! "
'^ The surprise your occupation of the
other day caused me was a delightfully
novel sensation, I assure you, Mr. Mason.
I feel deeply grateful to you for it.''
" What ! the occupation, of stone-breaking ?
How came that about ? " questioned Mr.
•^ I am in want of a profession," Wil-
fred gravely replied, " and I was trying
my qualifications for that of a roadman.
I only discovered disqualifications : I am
still slightly lame from a blow I inflicted
upon my knee."
" Eleanour can hardly afford to laugh at
you," her father remarked. *^ Looking out
of my window, just after daybreak one
summer morning, I saw her digging vigo-
262 BOND AND FREE.
rously in the vegetable garden at the back
of the house — with what object do you
suppose ? '^
'^ Papa ! I thought you promised me not
to tell that story ! "
'' Did I ? I had forgotten ; but I did
not begin till the servants were gone.
Can you guess her motive, Mr. Mason ?
She had been struck with the cheerful,
contented look of some women who work
in the fields close by : she wished to see
if to work meant to be cheerful and con-
tented ! "
" What was the result of your exploit ? "
Wilfred asked, looking at Miss Narpenth
with more interest than he had felt in her
"The results were sore hands, stiff arms
and shoulders, intense tiredness for the rest
of the day (I do not know though that it
was an unpleasant kind of tiredness), and.
BOND AND FREE. 263
worst of all, a soiled dress, the state of
which greatly excited the curiosity of my
maid. I chose that early hour, because
it was real hard work I wanted to try,
and I wished to elude the comments of
the servants' hall — ^but that is an impos-
sible thing to do. Do you remember what
Thackeray says in 'Vanity Fair' of the
Heimgericht held in the servants' hall. I
suppose it is true that we are all slaves
to some one thing or person; yet I should
think that you, Mr. Mason, are an ex-
ception to this rule : you must be enviably
free — free to be and do what you like, and
to go where you like."
'* Is it not generally the case that those
who are not slaves to others, and to things
external, are apt to be slaves to something
within themselves? Freedom is a thing we
all talk about, and of which none of us
264 BOND AND FREE.
Miss Narpenth did not answer ; the blush
that had been called into her face by her
father's story was slow to fade. She soon
rose to go to the drawing-room. Wilfred,
holding the door open for her, felt a sense
of pleasure in observing her stately grace —
a thrill of novel pleasure from the contact
of her rustling dress, as she passed him, and
from the glance and smile with which she
'' You take no wine, I see, Mr. Mason,
and you will, perhaps, prefer having coffee
in the drawing-room. I should like you
just to look at a few of Eleanour's paintings ;
may I trouble you to follow me ? "
Mr. Narpenth led the way to an apart-
ment of very studio-like appearance ; in it
there were a good many framed pictures —
some of them being copies, some from
original sketches — and several unframed
canvases, but all were turned with their
BOND AND FREE. 265
faces to the wall : though there was an
unfinished picture on the easel, the room
showed no signs of recent work.
" I do not pretend to be any great judge
of pictures ; but of course a man must
pick up some knowledge about them, as
about other thhigs," Wilfred said, after a
close scrutiny of one or two of Miss
*' And how do these strike you ? "
" As showing a great deal of well directed,
original talent. Has Miss Narpenth worked
on this" — pointing to the picture on the
easel — ^' recently ? "
" She has not ,touched a canvas for
several years ; she gave up painting during
the last summer we spent in Wales — the
year when we first, and so opportunely,
made your acquaintance. I am very anxious
to see her take up her brushes again ;
their use was a great resource and amuse-
266 BOND AND FREE.
ment — and want of occupation is the great
curse of young women's lives now-a-days,
" I have ventured to take Mr. Mason
into your studio, Eleanour," Mr. Narpenth
said, as they joined his daughter in the
''It seems to me, Miss Narpenth, that
your copies are much more carefully exe-
cuted than your original works," Wilfred
remarked, for the sake of breaking an awk-
ward silence ; which seemed to be one of
displeasure on the lady's part, and of ap-
prehension on her father's. v
" Is not that very natural ? "
''Perhaps — ^if it arise from diffidence as
to the merits of your own compositions.
May I hope some day by daylight to be
allowed to look through your folios of
sketches? I shall then expect to see
new things, which have always more in-
BOND AND FREE. 267
terest for me than have the most perfect
copies of old ones."
"You forget that Hhere is nothing new
under the sun/ "
" I remember that we are none of us ac-
quainted with a millionth part of what
lies under the sun ; and as each nature has
individuality, power to perceive something
not to be perceived by other natures, and
— if it is gifted with power of expression —
to produce something not to be produced
by other natures, may we not continually
learn new things one from the other?
Do not our most familiar thoughts some-
times seem strange to other minds ; and
the facts of other men's experience appear
to us as fiction when first presented to
ours ? "
" But do you think that every nature has
a distinctive individuality ? "
" I do not know why we should doubt
268 BOND AND FREE.
it — why we should consider spirit likely
to be less varied in its manifestation than
matter — why we should not believe in
infinite differences of souls, as well as in
infinite differences of bodies. Can you
imagine the existence of another being
with sympathies so perfectly one with
your own, that were it possible to ex-
change natures and retain self-conscious-
ness (the consciousness of your former
self) you would not experience a sense of
all-pervading strangeness ? "
Eleanour passed her hand over her
brow in a laughing attempt to smooth
out the thought- wrinkles.
*^ I cannot follow you,^' she said. " ^ Take
some one else's nature, and yet retain
one's own self-consciousness ! ' "
"I am not surprised that you cannot
conceive the possibility of the impossible,"
Wilfred said, laughing. ^' All mysticism
BOND AND FREE. 269
apart, the fact is that I wish to be per-
mitted to look through Miss Narpenth's
sketches, and expect to receive much plea-
sure from doing so/'
"Look in to luncheon to-morrow," Mr.
Wilfred's eyes sought for Eleanour's per-
" I shall be happy to show you my
poor performances if you will do so ; and I
can then introduce you to the lady of whom
you have heard us speak to-day — Mrs.
Lister. She is an interesting person; and
I often fancy must have a history, which,
if you could find it out, might form a
good subject for a novel."
"I do not think I have yet acquired
the habit of taking a merely professional
interest in my fellow-creatures," Wilfred
"By-the-bye, my dear, do you know
270 BOND AND FREE.
if Mrs. Lister is better ? " asked Mr.
"She is rather better. 1 told Ann to
enquire when she took her up some tea. I
daresay a night's rest will set her all right."
Then, conscious that something in her
last speech to Wilfred had been distasteful
to him, Miss Narpenth devoted herself to
the endeavour of effacing the bad impres-
sion it had made. She turned the con-
versation to places they had both visited,
and works of art they had both seen
abroad; in speaking of the latter, she ex-
cited Wilfred's admiration by her discrimi-
nating appreciation of their merits. She
not only entered into the subtlest refine-
ments of his criticism ; but sometimes,
taking the initiative, she showed either
that she went beyond him in enthusiasm,
or that her taste was more highly culti-
vated. When she spoke of scenes and
BOND AND FREE. 271
objects of natural beauty, however, she
pleased her listener less ; with these she
seemed to have no inward sympathy, and
all she said in their praise sounded forced
It was very late when Wilfred rose to
go ; but even then he seemed reluctant to
depart, and Eleanour knew how to enchain
him longer. For the last two hours the
conversation had been a Ute-a-t^te. Mr.
Narpenth had been dozing over the paper.
Eleanour sat near the centre lamp, toying
with some work ; Wilfred, lounging near
her in a low, luxurious chair, had watched
the busy idleness of her beautiful hands,
and the slipping to and fro of the brace-
lets on her smooth white arms, with a
kind of indolent fascination ; sometimes he
forgot to talk, and had to be roused by a
glance from her brilliant eyes, or a few
sparkling words from her lips.
272 BOND AND FREE.
Even after he had once said "good-night/'
he lingered ; leaning on the back of his chair.
" The scenes of our first, second, and
third meeting differ widely ! " he said, as
his eyes returned from a circuit of the
room to its attractive centre. " Have
you any sketches of the Welsh coast near
Abergwynn ? "
" Only some very early ones. I had
given up sketching before that strange
meeting of ours; and between that summer
and a summer we passed at Abergwynn,
when I was not much more than a child,
I was at school abroad."
Miss Narpenth coloured deeply as she
spoke — why, Wilfred could not understand.
^^ If you ever paint from memory, that
bay; overhung by lowering clouds; with
wild surf breaking on its sandy curve ; and
the dismal beauty of the plain stretching
between the sea and the hills "
BOND AND FREE. 278
"Abergywnn offers fine subjects without
doubt," Miss Narpenth broke in abruptly;
"but I have given up painting. At
Wilfred waited for the end of this sen-
tence; but Ele.anour drooped her head over
her work, and did not finish it.
The small voice of a French clock just then
made itself heard, striking twelve; Wilfred,
at last, really departed. Mr. Narpenth, ac-
companying him to the house-door, re-
minded him of his promise to come and
see Eleanour's sketches next morning ; add-
ing, "If you can revive her interest in
painting, I really shall feel obliged to
The door was closed after Wilfred. He
found himself alone; under a clear, star-
lit sky: but in spite of the coolness and
silence of night the influences of Thorndon
House lingered about him — those of nature
VOL. I. T
274 BOND AND FREE.
did not penetrate through the atmosphere
Eeaching his cottage, it seemed more
than usually redolent of unsavoury odours,
those of onions and stale tobacco pre-
dominating ; and to-night these things affected
him more than usual — they greatly offended
and disgusted him. His small, low sleep-
ing-room, with its musty smell, seemed stifl-
ing. He flung the lattice open with a
violence that shook out several loosened
panes of glass ; then, bending his head over
some plants, a heliotrope, and a rose-scented
geranium that stood on his sill, he closed
his eyes, and allowed himself to think of
Eleanour Narpenth — of her grace, and of her
soft graciousness for him ; of the elegance
and luxury by which she was so fittingly
The night air was chill ; when by-and-
by he lifted up and drew in his head.
BOND AND FREE. 275
opening his eyes to the meanness of his
poor room — illumined by the dirty light of a
candle flaring smokily, and guttering into
the already grease-spotted candlestick — he
experienced a very unpleasant revulsion of
" Was man GescMck nennt, lasst sicli nicht versohnen."
Wilfred passed the next morning in look-
ing forward to the afternoon. Restlessness
had taken the place of listlessness — a sign,
perhaps, that life had some unwonted in-
terest; for those who fear nothing, hope
nothing, and expect nothing, do not suffer
As he walked up the carriage-drive to
Thorndon House, his glance swept the draw-
ing-room windows, and showed him a lady-
seated near one of them — not Miss Nar-
BOND AND FREE. 277
penth he found, when he was ushered into
the apartment; but a lady taller than Miss
Narpenth, dressed in black, with a com-
plexion of almost startling pallor. She rose
as he entered — they exchanged bows, and
he was struck with a certain eagerness,
almost amounting to wildness, in her eyes.
Mrs. Lister — for so he concluded this lady
was called — begging him to be seated, said
she would tell Miss Narpenth, who she be-
lieved was in the garden, of his arrival.
She laid the morning paper before him and
crossed the room.
The servant having announced him as
"Mr. Mason," Wilfred was rather surprised
that Mrs. Lister paused before she reached
the door, and asked —
" Who shall I tell Miss Narpenth desires
to see her ? "
Wilfred, from a consciousness that his
Christian name alone was rightfully his, had
278 BOND AND FREE.
acquired a habit of using it on most occa-
sions — he did so now.
"Mr. Wilfred Mason — but I am sorry to
trouble you so far/' he answered.
A suppressed cry, as of pain, startled
him. He saw Mrs. Lister stagger, and clutch
the handle of the door. In a moment he
was by her side, and her clutch was trans-
ferred to his offered arm. She turned her
face to his, looking at him with eyes that
were at first sightless from the intensity of
hungry effort to see — while the working of
her features bore witness to some sharp
inward struggle, as between death and life.
When the mist cleared from before her
vision, and she met Wilfred's alarmed and
sympathising look, she tried to smile.
"It is nothing. I struck my foot — the
pain made me feel faint — thank you ! '' she
She released his arm from her grasp, and
BOND AND FREE. 279
passed quickly out of the door which he
held open for her. He returned to his
seat, and to the perusal of the paper.
In talking with Mr. Narpenth yesterday,
he had found it inconvenient to be so
entirely ignorant as he was on all topics
of public interest ; he had resolved to
give some attention to these things for
the future ; but now he could not fix his
thoughts on the columns, so much did
the strangeness of Mrs. Lister's look and
manner occupy him.
It was not long before Miss Narpenth
■entered through the conservatory, her hands
and the hat which hung over her arm full
of flowers. When she freed a hand to
offer it to Wilfred, a shower of late au-
tumn roses fell at her feet. Being young
and poetical, it would have been odd if
he could have assisted in picking up the
scattered treasures without finding some-
280 BOND AND FREE.
thing pretty and appropriate to say about
the flowers and the fair culler of them.
His compliments were received with digni-
" May I keep this one rose ? " he
asked, as he lifted the last — a flower of
a peculiarly brilliant crimson, and of
a rich and powerful perfume — from the
"I have a sort of right to it," he
added, having received permission to retain
it — "for it has wounded me. Has it any
distinctive name ? ''
Eleanour smiled rather consciously.
"Our old gardener believes it to be a
variety of his own introduction," she an-
" No doubt he has named it then ? "
"He begged my permission to call it
the 'Eleanour Narpenth.'"
"Your namesake has wounded me rather
BOND AND FREE. 281
deeply, Miss Narpenth," Wilfred said, ex-
amining his finger.
"I think the gardener paid me a doubt-
ful compliment — for the tree is particularly
thorny, and does not flower freely. Have
you really done more than prick your
finger, Mr. Mason ? Eeally hurt it ? "
"Indeed I have; a very large thorn is
safely lodged in my flesh."
" Shall I give you a needle to try and
extract it ? " she asked, and carefully se-
lected one from a case she took from
Mrs. Lister's open work-box.
" May I venture to ask you to extract
it for me?" he asked, holding out his
hand towards her.
She took the hand in hers, examined the
wound, and drew him towards the light,
saying, as she did so : —
" Surely you have a right to ask me
to do more than such a trifling service
282 BOND AND FREE.
for you, seeing that I owe my life to
your courage and presence of mind. I
do not think I am of a quite thankless
nature ! "
Perhaps her hand was not quite firm,
or his trembled ; at all events, the thorn
was not easily extracted. Eleanour looked
up once to see if she were giving him
much pain ; but there was a power in the
intent glance that met hers which pre-
vented her from repeating the experiment.
It is certain that, after this exchange of
looks, it was her hand which trembled.
The thorn had at last been extracted,
and Wilfred was tendering his thanks to
the fair operator, when Mrs. Lister came
into the room ; her quick glance seemed
immediately to take note of Eleanour's
blushing cheeks, and of the soft, perhaps
involuntary, flattery of Wilfred's eyes.
Miss Narpenth, with a manner less com-
BOND AND FREE. 283
posed than usual, introduced Wilfred to her
friend Mrs. Lister ; and then they went into
an adjoining room — a small breakfast par-
lour — to luncheon. Mrs. Lister spoke but
little while they sat at table ; and when
they returned to the drawing-room, and
Miss Narpenth's portfolios were brought in,
she seated herself by a distant window, and
did not, even by a look, take part in the
conversation that ensued. This silent pre-
sence weighed upon Wilfred. At first Elea-
nour also seemed to feel it a restraint ;
but, after a time, she grew too much in-
terested in her companion to remember Mrs.
Lister, or any strangeness she might have
noticed in her demeanour.
"I find that a poet is a most pleasant
critic," Miss Narpenth said, by-and-by : " your
imagination, Mr. Mason, supplies the defi-
ciencies of my work — you discover beauties
that cannot exist in the sketches themselves —
284 BOND AND FREE.
because I did not perceive them in nature,
and, therefore, did not try to represent
"I do not think that your ' because '
proves anything, Miss Narpenth. I think
that a sketch or picture from the hand
of a true artist will always have things
in it that he was not conscious of trying
to put into it— beauties and truths which
are first seen and interpretated by intelli-
gent criticism. Should not Art always be,
to some extent, unconscious — though to
say so may seem paradoxical? These com-
panion sketches of yours, which I see you
have called, ^Before the Storm' and * After
the Storm,' appear to me to be beauti-
fully felt, and wonderfully true to nature.
It was daring of you to take exactly the
same scene, and represent it under the
two aspects ; but I think the result has
justified the daring. One feels a sense of
BOND AND FREE. 285
oppression ; a sense of something awful
and threatening in the stillness, looking
at the first drawing : while this other,
with its pure, fair, tender tints ; with its
waters sinking to calm now after their
late troubling ; pervaded, as it seems to
me, by a kind of penitent serenity — as if
nature repented herself of her late passion
— makes one grow quiet and peaceful as
one gazes." Lowering his voice, he added,
"One would almost long to have a fierce
storm of trouble break over one's life were
one assured that it would be followed by
such profound and delicious calm — or to
see a beloved face lowering with anger
and distorted by passion, might it surely
melt and soften afterwards to an expres-
sion of so exquisitely mild and beautiful a
Eleanour sighed "You will make me
in love with my own work; you will wake
286 BOND AND FREE.
up my dead zeal — if dead thiDgs can wake
_and if ."
" May I venture to enquire why you
gave up the use of so beautiful a gift ? "
Wilfred asked — when she did not complete
her sentence. She coloured vividly, but
did not look altogether displeased with the
questioner. A quick, involuntary glance
which she turned towards Mrs. Lister made
Wilfred fancy that had they been alone
his curiosity would have been gratified ;
but in this he was mistaken.
'^ My love of painting left me all at
once, with other girlish follies or enthu-
siasms,'^ she answered — "I do not know
that I shall ever paint again."
"And yet," persisted Wilfred, ^'I fancy
that you suffer from ennui — ^from want of
interests and occupation. It is wrong to
let your talent lie idle — you will not be
happy and content while you do so ; the
BOND AND FREE. 287
sense of possession of unused power is
always burdensome. ^ Was man nicht niitzt
ist eine schwere Last/ you know. But that
it is a wonderful piece of arrogant presump-
tion on my part to speak in this style, I
am fully aware. Can you excuse my hav-
ing done so ? '^
"I do not see that I have anything to
excuse : I am grateful to you for speaking
as you have done.'* Bending her head
down over the drawings, she continued
softly and hurriedly :—
" You are perfectly right ; and, to own
the truth, I often long to paint again ; but
once, when I was very miserable, and when
I believed myself to be cruelly ill-used, I
made a foolish vow, which, though I know
it was foolish and wrong, I am now afraid
" Did you vow never to paint again ? "
" Never, unless something happened which
288 BOND AND FREE.
I believed never could happen. I know this
must sound very absurd, and I give you
leave to laugh at me." She lifted up a
glowing face as she finished speaking, and
set him the example by laughing scorn-
fully ; but Wilfred's face was perfectly
"Miss Narpenth, is it not time that we
dressed for dinner ? " Mrs. Lister asked.
Both Wilfred and Eleanour started at the
harshly abrupt tone of the question.
" Surely it is not yet so late ? " Miss
" It is more than half-past five."
*' Tou must see the contents of the second
folio some other day, then, Mr. Mason. I
find it exceedingly pleasant, Mrs. Lister, to
have unknown beauties in my poor daubs
introduced to my notice," she added, turn-
ing gaily to the lady she addressed.
"You have seen these drawings, I take
BOND AND FREE. 289
for granted ? " Wilfred asked Mrs. Lister.
"Most of them. I am best acquainted
with the earlier ones — sketches of foreign
scenes which were executed under a foreign
" Mr. Mason has not seen those/' Eleanour
" Do you not agree with me, that to
call works of Art — especially sketches — sug-
gestive, is to offer them the highest praise ? "
With a drawing still in his hand, Wilfred
addressed his question to Mrs. Lister : feel-
ing as if he had been guilty of rudeness in
leaving her so long unnoticed, and conscious
of something unpleasant in the manner of
both the ladies, he was anxious to draw
her into conversation.
**It always seems to me," he continued,
" that works of which the whole beauty,
meaning, and force are seen, felt, or heard at
once, must necessarily be of a low calibre."
VOL. I. U
290 BOND AND FREE.
" One very soon wearies of such works
at all events; as one does of people with-
out reticence, who turn their natures inside-
out for every stranger's inspection."
It struck Wilfred that this remark of
Mrs. Lister's was directed against Miss Nar-
penth. Perhaps Eleanour thought so, too ;
for when Mrs. Lister had left the room,
she observed, in a tone of annoyance ; —
^^ That lady is in a singular humour
Assisting to tie the strings of a folio,
Wilfred said — more for the sake of giving
a fresh turn to Miss Narpenth's thoughts,
than from any very earnest desire in the
^' If I should be the direct or indirect
means of re-awakening in you so great an
interest in your art as shall lead you to
break an ill-considered vow, I shall be
BOND AND FREE. 291
"That is not likely," Eleanour answered,
As she spoke, she looked at him with
something of haughty defiance in her eyes
and bearing. At this moment Mr. Nar-
" Papa will insist on your staying to
dinner," Eleanour observed; she already
repented of her hasty haughtiness, as she
saw Wilfred's face assume a wounded and
He answered her with a manner that
mirrored her passing hauteur. Leaving
him in her father's hands, she escaped to
the duties of the toilette; confidently ex-
pecting to find him in the drawing-room
on her return to it,
Mr. Narpenth was hospitably urgent,
but Wilfred did not choose to remain.
He passed his evening in abusing his folly
for having indulged the sudden pique that
292 BOND AND FREE.
prompted him to refuse Mr. Narpenth's
invitation ; in speculating whether he
had given Miss Narpenth any cause of
offence; or whether ill-humour, caused by
a personal application of Mrs. Lister's re-
mark, was alone answerable for the rapid
change from soft, confiding graciousness
to an air of proud hostility. He weighed
the possible reasons for this change ; till,
becoming angry with Eleanour — angry with
himself, too, for thinking so much about
her — he resolved that he would not go
to Thorndon House again until he was
particularly requested to do so. He had
no intention of submitting submissively to
being made the sport of a proud girl's
Ten days passed before he saw Miss
Narpenth again ; he had never spent
five more uneasy, dissatisfied, restless
days than were the first five of these. On
BOND AND FREE. 293
the sixth he set to work: not, however, to
execute either of the orders — which, offer-
ing golden alhirements, lay temptingly at
hand — for that kind of composition which
he had abjured. Scenes and incidents of
his life abroad — moods of thought that
had been on him in various places, at
various times of day or night — contrasted
and harmonized aspects under which dif-
ferent objects had presented themselves to
him, had been vividly recalled to his
mind by his conversations with Miss Nar-
penth ; in spite of his belief that, either,
he had never possessed genius, or that
it had left him, he set himself to en-
deavour to fix these revived impressions
in a series of poems.
Apparently he had no longer any
thought of soon leaving Thorndon.
END OF VOL. I.
E. BORN, PRINTEE, GLOUCESTER STREET, REGENT'S PARK.
UNIVERStTY OF ILLINOIS-UHBANA
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